The excitement this summer’s free agency created for the NBA could all be for naught by this time next year. That’s when the association’s current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires, which could trigger a league-wide lockout.

If a deal between the NBA Players Association and the league’s owners isn’t reached by June 30, 2011 when the current CBA expires, the league could see its first work stoppage since their 1998 dispute. That season, which didn’t begin until February 1999, resulted in an abbreviated 50-game schedule after the two sides clashed over the owners’ request for a cap against escalating player’s salaries and changes to the league’s salary cap system.

Both the players’ union and the NBA’s owners have been at an impasse over the league’s current labor agreement, which owners believe needs to be revamped to enable teams to operate more profitably by reducing players’ salaries. The players’ association however, seeks increased revenue sharing between the league’s owners and the players.

“I’m preparing for a lockout right now and I haven’t seen anything to change that notion,” NBA Players’ Association Executive Director Billy Hunter told the Associated Press. “Hopefully I’ll see something over the next several months. As of this moment, it’s full speed ahead for me in preparing the players for a worst-case scenario.”

According to, during NBA All-Star weekend in Dallas last February, Commissioner David Stern predicted the league could see a $400 million loss by the end of this past season. During a press conference in Las Vegas following a meeting of the league’s board of governors on July 12, Stern revised that number to close to $370 million.

Other league officials said the loss wasn’t nearly as severe as Stern proclaimed, but agreed that changes are still needed.

“Part of the problem with the existing system is it’s based largely on revenue, not net revenue,” Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver told the AP. “Although our actual revenue numbers were better than what we projected, it came at a large cost. Our teams did a spectacular job in a down economy of increasing ticket sales, but that came at the cost of additional promotions, additional marketing, additional staff.”


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO