Upon conclusion of the recent NBA lockout and the events that followed it has become clear that neither the players nor owners are too concerned about the final product and consequently the fan experience.

I recently read a book titled “Fixing the Game” by Roger L. Martin, in which the author makes a compelling argument for how the NFL has managed to grow into the most popular sport in North America in a fairly short time frame (20-30 years) and has overtaken baseball as America’s favorite sport. By many accounts the league has gained so much popularity the phrase “football is America’s new religion” has become a cliche.

“Fixing the Game” has more of an economic focus where Martin makes a very compelling and enjoyable-to-read argument of how the current capitalist system could take advice from the regulators of the NFL to fix its current problems. Within the numerous connections that make for the interesting analogy between the NFL and the current economy, Martin explains that the success of the NFL lies squarely in its ability to put a focus on the consumer. The NFLs focus for the last 30 years, and thus all of the decisions the governing body has made, have focused on fan experience. Without going into to much detail (read the book), making a long story short it seems that the NBA is headed in the footsteps of the MLB rather than NFL.

Before I get ahead of myself I wouldn’t go so far as to say the NBA owners, commissioner, or players have completely forgotten the fans. However its clear that with the apparent financial struggle of the NBA all parties involved are more concerned with making/saving money than pleasing its customers.

According to most sources the owners came out on top after months of negotiating with the players making all the concessions. But what they got is more money, with a 50-50 split of profits reduced from 59-41 in players’ favor, but failed to fix the same reason they seemed to have started negotiations in the first place… how to keep smaller markets profitable. A hard salary cap was not put in place, and nothing has been done in way of ensuring or giving star players incentive to stay in the smaller markets they so often leave behind.

A few facts that prove the unfair state of the NBA and why small markets can’t stay competitive, can’t keep the star players, and thus can’t make money:

– Over the last 30 years the NBA has had only 8 teams that have won a championship. The NFL… 18 different teams over the same period (many of which have been small market teams Green Bay, Pittsburgh…). And its even worse when you consider the teams that have been to the finals.

– Recent star demands pre lockout: Lebron, Bosh to Miami. Amare, Melo to the Knicks. Kobe demands a trade so the Lakers get him Pau and Odom.

– Post lockout demands: Paul and Dwight ask for trades days after the lockout ends. Paul gets what he wants and even though Im as excited as anyone to see him throwing lobs to Blake and Jordan he still got what he wanted, moved to LA (a big market) and left New Orleans in the dust, which by the way could have been even worse if the NBA didn’t own the Hornets.

To sum it all up, nothing substantial has been done to help smaller markets stay competitive. Stars will continue to leave to bigger cities, and smaller market teams will continue to lose games, fan support, and money.

I personally don’t want Stern stepping in every time an ‘unfair’ trade goes through, and would rather see him and the rest of the powers that be make some operational changes so that mega trades and star demands can’t happen. The sport may be popular and growing, but the league will continue to suffer if something isn’t done.

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