MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Thursday night was supposed to be when South Florida sports fans could finally welcome back a team that is committed to winning, the Miami Heat.
Instead, the ugly lockout imposed by the owners on the players while the two sides argue over how to divide billions of dollars has cancelled every single game through the end of November.
Those cancellations include nine Miami Heat home games which take a toll on the franchise, the players, and the community around the AmericanAirlines Arena that depend on the crowds from Heat home games.
In total, the NBA has canceled a total of 202 games have been canceled due to the ongoing lockout.
Making matters worse is that both sides, the NBA owners and the National Basketball Player’s Association, are showing no signs of working together any time soon.
Luckily, both sides are beginning to show cracks in the rank and file.
The entire issue breaks down to one thing: Money. The billionaire owners want more of it. The millionaire players have given up close to $1 billion over the next decade in negotiations, but the owners still want more.
If the owners’ position was a movie character, it would be Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street saying, “Greed is good.”
But, Heat owner Micky Arison revealed last Friday that it wasn’t the Heat that was standing in the way of the labor deal being completed.
Instead, it’s owners like Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the biggest joke of an owner in professional sports, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.
The NBPA and its players aren’t without blame in the fiasco as well. The NBPA flatly refused to drop down from 52 percent of Basketball Related Income, which is the total amount of money the league brought in.
Proving that ego and lack of education can get in the way of common sense, according to CNBC.com’s Darren Rovell, missing a month of the NBA season will cost both sides $400 million.
On the flip side, dropping to 51 percent of the BRI on a 7 year deal will only cost the players $280 million.
Lost in the back and forth between the two sides is reality. The league enjoyed unparalleled popularity last season thanks to the Miami Heat, the rebounding Knicks, and the Mavericks taking down the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Keeping that popularity going for another couple of years would put the league in a top position to renegotiate television deals for perhaps billions of dollars more.
That would have put more money in the owners’ pocket, had they agreed to a 47-53 BRI split with the players.
It likely would have made enough money to finally allow owners to turn a profit with increased revenue sharing and increased money from a new television deal.
Instead, the owners are seeking to run up the score on the players. The owners know they’ve already won and are now in the position of seeing just how much they can squeeze from the players.
But, the owners are playing a dangerous game with fans. The NBA isn’t the NFL in terms of fan popularity.
If NBA fans choose to move on to college basketball or something else, then the record television ratings will be a thing of the past.
Without fans, no professional sports organization can succeed. The NBA spent the better part of the last decade trying to recover from the lockout of 1998-1999 that cost 32 games in the regular season.
The difference between now and then is during the last NBA lockout, the economy was soaring.
This time around, the Great Recession is still gripping the country and disposable income is a thing of the past for most Americans.
Against that backdrop, the owners and the players are bickering over millions of dollars when both sides make more money in a year than some people will see in a lifetime.
But the biggest losers are the people who have nothing to do with the negotiations; it’s Miami Heat staffers who have seen their salaries slashed by 35 percent; it’s business owners who will losing thousands of dollars in revenue from businesses.
For example, when the Heat play at the AAA, Gordon Biersch Brewery said its business jumps 30 percent. Now, the business will have to deal with a recessionary economy and a loss of thousands of customers over the next month.
The NBA will return, but the question is will the fans be there to embrace it when it does?
In the meantime, those people waiting for their meal ticket to come back to the AAA are starving as the hopes of basketball appears farther away than ever.