Why the NBA lockout won’t last as long as the NFL lockout

Right now two of the major sports in the United States are enduring a player/owner lockout over disputes regarding pay and revenue sharing. Both leagues have rich players and even wealthier owners. Both leagues pay their elite players millions of dollars a year to do what most of us would happily do for free.

As of this writing, the NFL lockout was well over 4 months long. The NBA lockout is only a few weeks long. The analysts are all saying they think we’ll miss the NBA season, and many think the NFL season could be missed as well. There is one thing they are all overlooking, and why I think we’re likely to see the NBA season start on time.

If you recall 12 years ago we had an NBA lockout during the 98-99 season which cut the length of the season in half (at the league’s last peak in popularity by the way). There was one big factor that stands in stark contrast between the NBA then and the NBA now. The NBA now has alternatives. Back in the late 90s it would have been unheard of for an NBA caliber player to willingly go play in Europe or Asia. Now however, the salaries are rich, contracts cushy, and facilities vastly improved. So the leverage that the owners held in the 20th century is effectively gone. If 10% of the league’s players opt to play in the Euro leagues with no NBA opt-out clause, the league (NBA) would be hard pressed to offer a similarly competitive product next year compared to what we’re used to. Fans will be pissed; owners will lose money.

The NFL has the advantage of their being no foreign league aside from the CFL of canada that even plays American style football. On top of that CFL salaries pale in comparison to NFL, so most players earning $500k minimum aren’t going to risk injury over $40k/year. NBA players will risk injury to make a million bucks though.

I guarantee you if Lebron or Chris Paul or another elite player signed a 1 year no-nba opt-out clause contract, a Euro league team will throw $20-25Million at them. If the season gets canceled remember, these guys get nothing.