It’s A Numbers Game
All numbers are created equal, but some numbers are more equal than others.
The NBA Lockout is about numbers, but not the ones people think.
Numbers like 53 percent and 50 percent have been tossed around for weeks. Everyone has heard the terms millions and billions as well. Fans have been told about “BRI” splits, salary cap thresholds and rising revenues for days, upon days. Numbers, numbers, numbers, this lockout is clearly about numbers.
But, there are some numbers that don’t get discussed that often. Like the number 450. That’s how many jobs there are for NBA-caliber players every year. A minimum of 60 of those jobs are dedicated to first round-draft picks who are rookies or second-year players. I would estimate that at least 30 more jobs are committed to rookies playing out the third and fourth years of their rookie contracts. That’s 90 jobs, and possibly more than 100, set aside every year. Do the math and it comes to at least 20 percent of the available jobs in the NBA.
Basically, every year at least 20 percent of the NBA finds itself replaced by younger, less experienced talent that’s willing to work for less money. Moreover, that 20 percent of the League is playing at a fairly discounted rate based since rookie contracts are set by League mandate and are based on draft position. The annual pay for the No. 1 pick is slightly more than $5 million per year while the pay of pick No. 30 is $1 million annually.
That means that salary of the No. 1 pick is only slightly more than the “average” NBA salary. Look closely, and it appears some very lucky teams get the value of a potential superstar on the budget of what the 225th-best player in the League should earn.
Now, consider the number five. That’s the average length of an NBA career in years. That number also represents how many years it takes 60 percent of the year to blow through their career earnings and wind up bankrupt once the paychecks stop coming in. It’s the number of African American team presidents in the NBA, and it’s about half the number of black coaches in the League as well. The League’s playing ranks are 83 percent African American, by the way.
How about the number 18? That’s how many of the League’s owners have owned their teams for longer than 10 years, or double the average career of the typical NBA player. That includes the seven owners who have had their teams for an average of 26 years, or five times the typical NBA career, if you’re calculating at home.
There are other numbers to consider, like 2.5 percent, which is the average annual increase in player salaries under the recently expired collective bargaining agreement, and 3.3 percent, which is the increase in total revenues over the same period. Don’t forget the number 1.641. That’s how many billions of dollars League owners took home after paying all player salary costs last year.
If you average that number, every team in the League received $53 million based on the total Basketball Related Income collected. That money can be used to pay all necessary costs, and the rest is profit. However, that figure doesn’t include 60 percent of the revenue from luxury suites and arena signage sales. That is excluded from the BRI pot, just like 50 percent of the revenues from arena naming rights. All that money goes directly into the team’s coffers.
That’s a lot of numbers. But, these numbers are important because they provide give a better sense of the power balance and cost of this lockout. In one year alone, the players would collectively lose hundreds of millions of dollars that most of them will have no chance of ever recouping. This lockout was instituted by owners to make more money in a business operation that’s already set up to make them a lot of money for a very long time.
Unfortunately, many fans say they’re tired of hearing about numbers, particularly if those numbers aren’t listed in box scores. They are tired of boardrooms, business suits and Billy Hunter.
Fans don’t want to hear about how much money players will lose, or how much money owners have lost. The only number most fans care about is the number “1” preceded by the word “November.” That’s the day the NBA regular season would start if no games are lost. But, if fans truly care about that number, then they need to pay attention to all these other numbers.
Then they can understand why 450 are still battling 30.