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On Monday I wrote about life as a small market team in the new collective bargaining agreement and how it’s unfortunately impacting the Thunder. The league is full of haves and have-nots and while the Thunder are certainly excelling currently, the structure of the league’s system still feels unfavorable.
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop naturally had an extremely smart counterpoint: It’s not that the NBA is divided by market class, it’s just economics.
The Lakers and Knicks make more from their local markets than the Thunder ever can. But that’s not because of the NBA rules. That’s because of life. Also, and here’s a cheap shot … but the argument is that the Thunder’s market is simply far too small to generate those kinds of revenues. We all remember how that team got to that market, though, right?
They were in a bigger, more lucrative local market, but for reasons of civic pride and personal passion, despite an assessment at the time that the market might barely support a team, the owners moved to one of the smallest markets in America with a pro team. I’m all for OKC having a team, but when you make a non-economic decision like that, is it fair to expect the league or the other owners to fill in any economic disparities?
Per the usual, Henry is definitely correct. The league can’t impact the fact that Los Angeles has a lot more people in it than Oklahoma City. And the fact that that makes the Lakers especially profitable isn’t their fault. They pay their dues in revenue sharing, they operate within the rules everyone plays under.
I guess my point is simply that all that talk from deputy commissioner Adam Silver about competitive balance was really a bit overzealous. Because the league can’t be built that way, for the reasons Henry illustrates. It’s economics, stupid. For the same reason you’re likely to make more money if you run a successful big business in Los Angeles compared to OKC. More people equates to more revenue. At least revenue opportunities. And in the case of the NBA, that added opportunity is often a massive television deal, something the Thunder won’t really ever see.
To say the NBA has a “class system,” as I kind of recklessly did, probably isn’t fair. Because that class system is actually just reality. It’s life in the world. If you move a team to Big Spring, Texas (SHOUTOUT BIG SPRING), there’s a good chance you’re going to have more trouble making money than you would with one in Chicago or New York or LA. It’s the reason professional sports franchises are traditionally located in the biggest cities.
But again, to round out my original point: That doesn’t mean it’s fair. And the idea that the NBA could make it so is silly, with the Thunder being an obvious example of that. Now, we haven’t actually seen the new CBA impact anything, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. We haven’t seen a team actually facing the stiff repeater tax yet. While the Nets and Lakers have a ton on their books for 2015 and 2016, they can always maneuver to trim that number down. And David Stern is confident they will.
Presently though, it appears it’s been a systematic backfire, at least in OKC’s terms. The new CBA is impacting one of the little guys in an extremely negative way. Great management is being punished by Stern’s “player sharing” model. It’s almost as if the NBA is completely aware that there are some terribly managed NBA teams and are trying to force the smart ones to share their spoils. It’s NBA socialism, or something. Except in the Thunder’s case, it’s not the upper class doing the sharing.