February 22 – The United States of America has over 320 million people (census of 2014). The sport business flourishes in that country and will boast of their world series in basketball, ice hockey, baseball and the Super Bowl.
What we have seen though is, the massive support the sport business there attracts through broadcast rights. The impact of having that massive number is the reason why there is an almost 5-billion-dollar media rights for the National Football League (NFL) that is on TV for just over five months. There are 32 teams in that league.
In the National Basketball Association (NBA) there are 30 teams. In December 2010, Forbes, the established business publication carried comments regarding the ‘watering down of the NBA’. Lebron James was quoted as saying there were too many teams and it is why the NBA has become the league of the rich and poor. Now that is just close to 600 players on the collective rosters.
The Forbes article also pointed out that while Miami, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles teams were set to make money, some teams from Atlanta, Indiana, Memphis and New Orleans could lose. What came out of that was players at the time got slightly higher than half of the revenue and to make the NBA work and satisfy the game and the league, those earnings from revenues were lowered. So rather than reducing the number of teams, the players made a sacrifice. The league is still on and fans are still enjoying the game. More players too are getting endorsements.
Now let’s look at the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the 62-year old organisation which in the last 20 years has had intermittently, due to disputes, four major interruptions in the regular season. While no games were lost in the 1995 season because of the July 1 to September 12 timeline, the league was still affected. In 1998, the 29 team franchises at the time, played only 50 games which equalled a loss of 200 days. There were interruptions again in 2011 and 2013. The point is, there can be interruptions, but the games go on.
And oh, the NBPA only requires 260 minimum players to sign up, up to 2013, they had 300. That translates to – not all players are members. What is even more interesting, one of the richest players in the league today, Lebron James, is a vice president of the players’ association. My understanding of that is, while he is “set” – he wants the best for the sport and those around him.
Just some information on the top paid players in the NBA the last three seasons – Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Lebron James, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.
There are a bunch of players who have taken lower salaries and have a tremendous list of endorsements so their overall value is always being maximised. That is a model than can work and should work.
The point is – we here in the Caribbean have to figure a way to negotiate salaries, incentives, and emoluments whether you are retained (on a payroll) or you are a free agent. That process should not take away from the fact that in spite of how you feel about your parent-body, the game comes first. The focus should be on preparing in order to win. Endorsements will come. And in this competitive sporting arena, the Caribbean athletes are no longer competing in this region, but instead the walls of the elite athletes’ world are closing in.
Get in the game and make sure you do what is required to stay in the game.