The Tipping Point

First published in SportBusiness Magazine November 2011

Malcolm Gladwell’s written a number of articles for on the current state of the NBA during the four-months and counting of the current lockout. He eloquently argues the case that not only are NBA owners overstating their claims for financial penury but through their actions they grossly overvalue their own sports franchises relative to any financial return they could hope to achieve.

There’s now a growing consensus that games will be missed and that the players are going to end up on the losing side of a substantial change in salaries and contract length. Were this not such a predictable re-tread of 1998 it would be surprising that a league with so much reliance on the image of its players has the whip hand in negotiations

That’s what makes this June’s pick-up game in Manila, sponsored by M. V. Pangilinan with paid appearances from NBA stars, such an interesting development and a glimpse of a potential basketball future. Internationally there is an appetite for basketball stars that runs independently of interest in the NBA, and doesn’t rely on the league. NBA players have often spent their summers playing in similar
games across the US but now they can supplement that with the
financial benefits of a truly international sport.

Basketball is a game driven by individuals not by teams, could the NBPA seize the initiative and make the NBA the first team sport to more closely mirror the personality driven single-player sports; tennis, boxing, athletics? The most novel idea to arrive and swiftly disappear during the brief NFL lockout was the NFLPA’s interest in combining player assets and working with non-NFL sponsors both as a shot in the eye to the NFL and as a source of on-going revenue for players losing salaries.

For now no international appearances or endorsement deal is going to replicate an NBA salary but, as the acrimony of the NBA lockout continues and owners press ever harder to reduce player costs and increase the value of their trophy assets, the day when a genuine superstar walks away from the NBA in their prime isn’t so far off.

David Powell
Associate Director