We On Award Tour…
Lockout or no, there’s no reason the NBA’s best shouldn’t play next season (and not overseas). Here’s how we do it.
by Farmer Jones / @thefarmerjones
So a few weeks ago I have an idea. Last week, over beers and humidity and soccer, I share it with Ben Osborne; sufficiently influenced by the preceding, he thinks it’s cool. I tweet it a couple days ago and get several dozen enthusiastic RTs. None of this makes me right, exactly, but it’s evidence on my behalf.
This is about the lockout.
I am not the first person to have an idea about the lockout. I am not even the first person to have a variation of this particular idea, and so respect to Mike Tillery, and maybe also to somebody at the Huffington Post, who apparently also had a similar idea, although I don’t read their shit and I’m not going to start now. In a way, this idea seems obvious enough that I feel like everyone should’ve thought of it. But I think my idea is different enough, and until someone gives me a really good reason why it won’t work, I will believe that it could.
Here’s what I got: Starting Tuesday, November 1, the best basketball players on the planet are getting paid to play basketball again. They are in uniform. They are playing to packed arenas in North America (because this overseas shit is not happening, at least not to any extent that’s going to change anything). Their games are on TV. And again (this part is important), they are getting paid.
The men who own the NBA are not.
I don’t care what you call this thing, but don’t call it a competing league. It’s not a league. It’s a tour. It’s U2, or it’s Jay and Ye. Whatever you’re into. Let’s say it’s 60 dates in 40 cities; every NBA city, and a lot of little hovels like Kansas City and San Diego and Seattle that could only ever dream of hosting a professional basketball game (you see what I did there). What it is, mostly, is viable.
(I should mention: I used the word “Streetball” in my tweet on this topic, by which I meant the idea of a touring basketball showcase. Understandably, a lot of people seemed to think I meant actually playing on blacktop. But that doesn’t work. Not if we’re going to generate serious money on this thing. Which—or at least the threat of which—is the point.)
Maybe it’s a double-header every night. Maybe a triple-header, three 30-minute games or something. It doesn’t really matter. The specifics will get figured out. What’s important is that, whether you’ve got set rosters or a rotating cast, four teams or six, you’ve got basketball games. Every team as loaded as the Miami Heat (stop it), bragging rights on the line every night. This is not All-Star weekend. These guys will be playing like it matters. Because it will.
You sponsor it. Every night it’s the Stars of Basketball World Tour, or a more clever name if you’ve got one, sponsored by Mercedes or Twitter or whoever. A title sponsor, and a hundred others in the small print, all paying to be a part of it. Then you’ve got ticket sales. If you live in an NBA city, and you think this might be your only chance to see KD and Kobe and Dwight in person this year, you’ll pay out the nose for these seats. If you don’t live in an NBA city and these guys come through? Like you’d miss it for anything.
Whenever possible, you play to the locals. Make sure you have one or two guys from every local team when you play in NBA cities. Common sense.
You promote it. Hard. You become more fan friendly than you’ve ever been, even if it’s only a temporary front and you don’t really mean it, which none of us will hold against you, because we just want our games back. Autograph signings. Twitter contests. Surprise appearances at local schools. Whatever feel-good crap will make you look good and make the owners realize they’re losing ground.
Oh, and you have music. Duh. Rappers, sure, but not just rappers. Again, this isn’t actually “streetball.” Get some of those crappy white bands in there that the kids like, too. Keep it relevant, but also relatively G-rated. You need to appeal to at least some of the same people who buy actual NBA tickets. (But you also should give away lots of tickets to poor people who can’t afford NBA tickets, too, because it’s both the smart and the decent thing to do.)
And you have to do it smart.
You start setting this up now, too, because the point is pressure. The point is saying to the owners, “You think you have all the leverage and can outlast us. Here’s how wrong you are.” You schedule this just like Cirque du Soleil or Katy Perry or Taylor Swift do, months in advance, so that every one of these gyms is sold out before you ever hit town.
That’s what you do. You get 20 or 30 of the top 50 or 75 guys in the NBA, and you put together a tour, and you sell out gyms all over the country, letting Bron and Wade and Dirk make kids smile. And you get paid—maybe not what you’re usually paid, but more than enough to justify it, and a hell of a lot more than you’re getting while locked out—to take away leverage from the owners.
You don’t worry about the fact that something like three-fourths of the League is left out in this equation, because it’s only temporary. You assume going in you’re not going play most of these games anyway (money-back guarantees on all tickets sold, fans), because you’re only doing this to end the lockout. On your terms.
And if the owners don’t cave, go ahead and play. You figured you’d be playing basketball and flying around a lot from November to April anyway.
So set this up, somebody. (Probably not you, Billy Hunter. I’m not sure I’d trust you to negotiate dessert options with my 3-year-old.) I know the agents are talking; maybe you can be on the same page about something for once. Really, it shouldn’t be that hard. Take the initiative. End this shit. Start now. Thank you.