The NBA lockout of 2011 could well carry over into 2012. If it does, the NBA will suffer grave consequences for losing an entire season. The last time a lockout endangered pro basketball like this was in 1998, when the league finally salvaged a 50-game season. The sport ultimately recovered from that mess, yet owners would argue there was no real recovery.
To salvage the 1998-99 year, both sides put together a new collective bargaining agreement that is now being blamed for bankrupting the league. Owners allege that the CBA and its favoring of the players, has led to 22 of the game’s 30 teams losing millions of dollars a year. As such, they may not be in a rush to make another deal with grave long-term consequences, even if it cancels an entire season.
Fans may be puzzled that a lockout could cause this much damage now after one of the NBA’s great regular seasons and postseasons. All of the momentum and new buzz garnered by the last year would be forfeit, especially if the entire subsequent season is lost. At that point, not even LeBron James and the Heat would generate enough backlash to balance that out.
But the league has faced dire straits in the midst of a lockout before and managed to survive. Back in 1998, pro basketball was facing the second retirement of Michael Jordan and the disbanding of the entire Chicago Bulls dynasty. With that looming ahead, the league appeared to have a bleak and uncertain future ahead, even before half of the next season was canceled.
Yet a deal was eventually struck, and when the game came back, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers became the newest dynasty. However, that dynasty was eventually disbanded and Bryant became tainted for years thanks to rape charges. In addition, incidents like the fight in the stands between the Pacers and Pistons in 2004 further tarnished the game’s reputation.
Still, because the 1998 lockout didn’t get an entire season canceled, it was fairly easy to overcome. But if this shutdown wipes out all of 2011-12 after the league made such strides in 2010-11, then there will be more of a cost to pay.
Fortunately, there is another massive free agent crop in the mix for the 2012 offseason led by the likes of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. That could help distract fans like the James saga did, although it’s unclear if the lockout would even be over by next offseason. In addition, the new CBA will likely severely alter the free agent races of the future in some shape or form.
The last NBA lockout came close to causing major damage but it was ultimately contained. Yet the landscape in 1998 was far different than the one in 2011, and that may be learned the hard way soon enough.
Boston Globe- “NBA locked so, season in jeopardy”