I was a sophomore in high school when the NBA locked out in 1998. A fresh-faced teenager, and a huge basketball fan. I was angry. I grew up watching the likes of superstars such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. Their high-flying talents and the fast-paced game was enthralling. By the time the league managed to salvage a 50-game season, I just did not care anymore. Call it teen angst maybe? I just thought the players were selfish to have thrown such a tantrum when they were getting paid millions of dollars to play a game they loved. The love I had for basketball never really came back. Sure it was exciting to catch a game every now and then, and I got caught up in the Mavs playoff run last year just like everyone else, but I was always brought back to the lingering feelings of disapproval I had for the sport based on the lockout in 1998.
Fast forward to 2011 and another season in jeopardy of being locked out. The NBAplayers rejected the owners’ latest labor proposal last week and will disband the union and turn to the courts for a resolution. This latest move puts the entire 2011-2012 season in jeopardy. Older and wiser, I look at this lockout in an entirely different light. I see the way it affects many more than just the players and owners. Working in the sports business, I see the ushers whose hours were cut drastically at arenas. I see front office staff who have been laid off in light of the inability to sell something that does not exist.
When the league managed to scrape together a 50-game season in the late 90s following the lockout, they were able to win back fans with the creation of a new dynasty in Los Angeles. Kobe, Shaq and the Lakers gave the crowds something to get excited about. Even IF the league is able to still preserve some of the season this year, changes to the CBA threaten to severely alter the free agent races of the future. So what will bring them back in? Only time will tell if the NBA can recover from this mess. With 22 of 30 teams losing money as it is, it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back this time.