No NBA, But More Kobe Sightings

“Really? No NBA season? No Lakers games?” Those were the first thoughts that went through my head this summer when the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expired and the owners locked out the players. That was July 1. The NFL lockout was still going on, but that ended on July 25. That alleviated my fears; “Ok, if the NFL can make a deal, so can the NBA.”

Almost three months later and the sides are as close to reaching an agreement as they were on day one. Training camps are scheduled to start Oct. 3, but after a meeting between owners and players went nowhere this past Thursday, the NBA has been forced to indefinitely postpone training camps and cancel 43 preseason games.

But why is the lockout happening? What does each side want? Without going into too much detail about the conflict, the problem is about money. The players currently receive 57 percent of basketball-related income, which includes ticket sales and money from television deals. The owners however are claiming that 22 of 30 teams are failing financially, so they can’t spare the extra dough and want the players to receive somewhere around 40 percent. There are other sticking points like a “hard” salary cap versus a “soft” one.

What has not been given a lot of attention is what will happen to those involved with the NBA who are not the owners or players if the lockout continues. Those who work at concession stands or ushers or at any other job that relies on the basketball season will most likely be out of work. The owners and players are rolling in it and can afford this break in pay. However, these arena workers most likely rely on their paychecks that come during the basketball season. Maybe none of these people will lose their jobs, but no basketball season means less hours. With the unemployment rate at 9.1 percent in the United States and 12 percent in California, it will be very tough for these employees to get a job elsewhere to bolster their finances while the NBA’s elite duke it out.

In Memphis, home of the Grizzlies, some analysts are predicting that a year-long lockout will by 2022 create a deficit in the fund used to pay off the bonds that financed the new arena, then leaving the bill to the city and county. Not only is that a huge consequence, it is a lasting one with an end date that’s more than 10 years from now.

At home here in Los Angeles we could feel the pinch too. With the recent construction boom in the downtown Los Angeles area, which has included projects such as the beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall and the sprawling L.A. Live complex, LA has sought to rejuvenate the inner-city which has had such a bad reputation for many years past.

This area also houses the Staples Center, home of the Lakers and the Clippers. But if because of the lockout there are no NBA games to attract people to this newly revitalized district, then the new businesses there will no doubt see their profits decline, and we could see a scenario similar to that of the arenas, with fewer hours to spread among employees.

All this being said, both the players and the owners are entitled to their rights. I respect that. However, that does not mean that I need to sympathize with them. And with the current state of the economy, it is doubtful that they are going to get any sympathy from anywhere else either.

This is not the only lockout in NBA history. During the 1998-1999 season there was a similar dispute which lasted well into the season and was ultimately resolved on Jan. 6, only a day before the NBA’s deadline to cancel the season. I think we could see something similar this season, which would be fitting given the other big financial drama of the year — raising the federal debt ceiling — came down to the wire as well. But do not despair Anteaters, if that’s the case, Kobe will be back in the ARC just in time for the rush of all those New Year’s resolution makers at the gym to see him.

Joel Marshall is a third-year literary journalism major. He can be reached at jbmarsha@uci.edu.