The gospel was already the gospel to Kobe Bryant. And this week’s announcement that NBA owners have finessed their way into a nearly $3 billion per year TV deal, virtually three times the value of the current pact they amass their fortunes from, simply reaffirms his testimonial.
“Players are encouraged per new CBA to take less to win or risk being called selfish and ungrateful while NBA TV deal goes up by a billion,” the Hall of Fame-bound Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted on Tuesday, followed by the equally provocative hashtag “#biz.” That all comes on the heels of Bryant openly pondering earlier this summer why “athletes get the pressure of playing for the love of the game,” while simultaneously challenging “do owners buy teams for love of the game?”
In the face of that widening rift, what was potentially shaping up as one of the most competitive and compelling NBA seasons to roll around in years has instantly taken a back seat, now easily eclipsed by what could soon lie in its riveting wake. By virtue of the aforementioned massive deal, ESPN and TNT retain almost exclusive rights to air all NBA games, but the billion-dollar question of who will soon be left holding the ball remains a bountiful one.
Bryant’s declaration is a clear indication of just how deeply resolved players already are in making certain they get more than their fair share by the time the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2016 season. It’s one of the primary reasons why LeBron James only inked a two-year deal in going back home to Cleveland and it at least partly explains why teammate Kevin Love and reigning league MVP and 2016 free-agent-to- be Kevin Durant have been deliberate in taking any steps about their own, individual situations.
James might not have a formal NBA Players Association title by the next time players and owners sit down to break bread and strike a new deal, but he knows its his thirst everyone will be most looking to quench.
“I am kind of the guy that has the power, I guess, without even having to put a name on it,” James admitted. “I’m very educated and I will use what I have to make sure our players are taken care of.”
Whomever is actually entrusted with brokering on the part of players, owners need to know as a union they don’t plan on going out like they did in 2011 when they now regrettably agreed to a deal to accept a seven percent decrease ( from 57 to 50) on all basketball-related income just to put the ongoing 161-day lockout behind them.
“At the end of the day, we will negotiate,” said James. “We know it’s going to happen at some point because our deal is ending soon. We would love to do it sooner than later. We don’t want to it to happen like it happened last time when we went into a lockout.”
James remembers those days and talks well, and he’s just as adamant in expressing things can’t end that way again either.
“The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners was telling us that they were losing money,” he said. “There’s no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now after we continue to see teams selling for billions of dollars, being purchased for $200 million, selling for 550 million, 750 million, $2 billion. That will not fly with us this time.”