David Stern Doesn’t Like, Doesn’t Understand Overseas Options For Players

Photo by ClayDavies via Flickr

 “I think if anything, I think there’s simply no way that the players collectively can generate more than a couple of hundred million dollars and we have a system that has been delivering $2 billion to them,” Stern said Tuesday in a phone interview.

“And in fact it threatens to do two things. It threatens to split the union because only the high-paying stars, only the superstars, will be able to get any significant number of dollars, and those dollars are so small compared to what they’re leaving on the table in the U.S. that it just means they’re going to be making a few more dollars than the non-superstars, and I think it’s going to split the union. So I’m not a big fan of it, but not because it’s a threat, but because it subjects our players to unnecessary risk and treats them disparately.”

via David Stern neither a fan nor threatened by overseas option – ESPN.

Ah, yes. David Stern, defender of all NBA player union interests, kindly offers from his biased wisdom to help guide his negotiating adversaries beloved players to oblivion safety.

In the interest of fair and unbiased opinions, let us separate this statement from the multiple other infuriating actions enacted upon by Stern and his owner cronies in the past few days (or is it the owners and their commish crony? At this point, it’s hard to tell). We shall break down this quote and this quote only, and we will be focusing on none else of Stern’s statements when we tell you why this is complete baloney.

Stern starts off completely correct. The NBA’s average salary is worth many times that of other professional leagues, and that’s before even accounting for the fact that other leagues often see players not even being given their salaries.

Do you know why this is the case? Do you know why the NBA can afford to pay their players this much more salary than other leagues?

  1. Because the NBA is owned by far richer owners than other teams around the world (there are some owners here or there who have more net value than some NBA owners, though their numbers have probably been diluted greatly by the global economy, but for every tycoon or oligarch there are also many who are scraping the barrel to sign another point guard for 25K a year).
  2. Because the NBA makes much more revenue than any other league in the world – 3.8 billion dollars of it this year, if reports are to be believed – revenue that is at an all-time high and yet still isn’t high enough to prevent the NBA from losing money, something they are apparently very proud of.

The NBA can offer players much, much more money than any other league in the world because the NBA is the basketball universe’s premier money-making machine… which is now locked out because of complaints about money. So for Stern to point out that players will not make more money elsewhere – completely ignoring both the fact that this larger money is now unavailable due to unreasonable requests and the fact that maybe, just maybe, these players are human beings who need to support their families and would rather take a pay cut than sit around and watch King David and his merry men lollygag about – is arrogant and condescending.

And the insinuation that only superstars will be able to find European employment? A quick look at the players who signed in Europe so far shows “superstars” such as Acie Law, DaJuan Summers, and Garrett Temple. Those are some real union splitting names, you guys. Don’t see how the union survives when Lebron James sits in his multi-million dollar mansion and has to watch E’Twaun Moore and Jeff Adrien join forces in Italy.

Other than actual-superstar Deron Williams, the only full-time starter who has agreed to spend his forced hiatus in the old continent  is Nicolas Batum. The rest are fringe players who were probably on their way to Europe anyway (David Andersen’s NBA days were a fun experience for everybody, but it had to end), or iffy rotation guys who were free agents, had no NBA contract to risk, and went for job security, like Nenad Krstic, Sasha Vujacic, Sonny Weems, or the five guys mentioned in the paragraph above. The only players with a guaranteed NBA deal for next year that are moving are Williams, Batum, Jordan Farmar, Ersan Ilyasova, and Timofey Mozgov. All-star team! 

The true downside to European movement is one that Stern doesn’t even mention. There are multiple roster spots available all over Europe– the problem is that teams don’t want to allocate them to players who may be leaving if a new CBA is banged out in mid-January. So most major teams are demanding guarantees from players that they will stay abroad for at least a full season, guarantees that players with signed contracts in the NBA can’t provide. Of course, it’s understandable why this isn’t included in Stern’s inaccuracy-ridden monologue – this is a situation created by Stern himself. By locking players out for an unknown amount of time, owners not only prohibit players from being employed in their own nation, but from pursuing employment elsewhere.

The sad thing about this is that David Stern doesn’t have to be the bad guy, here. The current NBA system is broken. Too many teams are losing money, the players do get too big a slice of the BRI pie, and things need to be fixed. The owners didn’t have to be the bad guys in this story, because they’re the ones investing huge sums of money in this game without something to show for it, and I think we can all agree that’s wrong. But as has been happening way too often in this entire process, Stern misses the point entirely because he’s too busy going for the jugular of what should be his business partners. Either the players become martyrs, or the players become extinct, but no matter what the case, this isn’t what Stern should be looking for. He should be looking for an actual solution. You know, the kind that actually helps put basketball on our television sets again come October.

Noam Schiller

Noam Schiller lives in Jerusalem, where he sifts through League Pass Broadband delay and insomnia in a misguided effort to watch as much basketball as possible. He usually fails miserably, but is entertained nonetheless. He prefers passing big men to rebounding guards but sees no reason why he should have to compromise on any of them.