Thursday, August 4, 2016
Why NBA Owners and Adam Silver Secretly Love Super Teams
When Kevin Durant made the decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder and join the Golden State Warriors earlier this offseason, it instantly made the Warriors the odds-on favorite to claim the 2017 NBA title, and by a wide margin.
Not too long after, Commissioner Adam Silver stated that the move by Durant presented a 'less than ideal' scenario for the NBA. Silver has vowed to "fix" the NBA and has also made clear that the goal of the league's collective bargaining stance is to ensure two things:
No. 1: That owners committed to running a successful franchise would have the best opportunity possible to turn a profit.
No. 2: That all 30 teams in the league would have a realistic chance of winning a championship on a regular basis.
When looking at the numbers, it's hard to argue that the second objective is truly being achieved. Only 11 teams have claimed the Larry O'Brien trophy since 1985. Over that 31-year span, the Los Angeles Lakers have been the most successful franchise, claiming eight rings while the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls claimed six, and the San Antonio Spurs dynasty managed to win five times in the last 17 years alone, thanks in large part to the recently retired Tim Duncan, along with the rest of the Spurs gang.
Even the most casual basketball fan needs only to reflect on the recent Finals series' they've watched in order to reach the conclusion that the league has been incredibly lopsided throughout its history. The more important question now however, is whether or not the lopsidedness of the league is actually a bad thing for owners, players and fans.
Billionaires Making Bank
For owners, purely from a profit standpoint, it's hard to feel sorry for anyone. Splitting 50% of a $24 billion television rights deal increases the value of every team in the league by a ton.
If you think a player like the Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley earning $151 million over the next five seasons is a lot, especially considering he's a player not quite considered in the same ilk as LeBron James or Kevin Durant, just wrap your head around how much more the owners stand to make, whether they're considered "elite" or "average," however one may choose to define an owner.
According to Forbes, the average NBA team is now worth $1.25 billion to its owner. Not too many owners are going to win titles over the next decade, but even fewer would sell their billion dollar franchises in distain for the lack of parity in the league.
Players Getting Paid and Exercising Power
It's funny that Kevin Durant has been widely criticized for joining the Golden State Warriors given he exercised his rights as both a free agent and an American citizen on Independence Day in America, because he made the decision that made him happy, both personally and on the basketball court. Sure fans in Oklahoma City, Cleveland and San Antonio aren't going to like it, and fans across the league who's teams are below the elite top four (including Golden State) are going to know they have no chance of seeing their team win it all for the foreseeable future, the players definitely support each other getting paid and making their own decisions.
Since the players will continue to get paid more and more money over the next five years specifically, there will be very little incentive for them to move away from joining their buddies on top-notching contending teams, even with a salary cap and luxury tax system in place. Only bottom feeding players suffer in any kind of collective bargaining dispute or apparent competitive discrepancy in the league. In the star-driven NBA, lopsidedness will be here to stay as long as the players can help it.
Fans Will Obviously Still Watch
Much was made about NBA Finals ratings falling drastically this past spring, but that was largely a result of each game being a blowout on the scoreboard. The league's new television deal obviously proves that people all around the world are still going to root for their favorite teams and watch the games, even if they know their team has no chance of winning it all. Also consider that even in the modern day economically prosperous NBA, the cost of watching games both online and in the arena only ever go up. Fans will continue to part ways with their money even if they perceive that other clubs possess an obvious and unfair advantage on paper.
No matter which way you split it, the NBA's tremendous financial success is due in large part to one key point. That everyone loves dominance in sports. Don't believe it? Think about how many more people became fans of golf over the last 20 years thanks to the dominance of Tiger Woods. Consider the juggernaut that is the NFL and how fans, experts and players alike begin talking when teams like the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers flirt with perfect records in the regular season.
Dominance in sports creates something much more entertaining than parity. It creates polarity. It posits fans on two sides of a clear divide: those that really want the underdog to win, and those that really want the favorite to impose their will.
Never mind all of the talk about the need to even out competition. That's what an impartial commissioner is supposed to say. The fact is that dominance is entertaining, and in the world of professional sports, where athletics is packaged as an entertainment product, being as entertaining as possible does what every good business should do; keep customers hooked, and keep the money rolling in.