Rony Seikaly Q+A
The former NBAer talks music, lockout and life after basketball.
SLAM: Assuming the lockout’s resolved, who you got next year winning the Championship?
RS: Honestly, I think what you saw this year from Miami is the worst that team can play. I don’t think that can happen again. Baring injury, I would have to go with Miami. It’ll be scary to see what they come back as. Lebron, and I don’t know him personally, but the expectation of his perfection and the disappointment of this year will define him going forward. It’s adversity, and that’s what defines you as a person: either you go hide in the corner or you come back as an animal.
SLAM: You were in the League for the ’98 lockout. How does that inform your understanding of the current situation?
RS: It’s similar. It’s about the business of the League. There’s no doubt that the League has the upper hand in the negotiations. They’ve got more muscle than the Player’s Association and at the end of the day the owners want to protect their investment and getting a return on their money. If you’re a player it’s about your family, your team and how you can make the most amount of money possible.
SLAM: How does this lockout affect each party?
RS: A lot of players are used to the cash flow to sustain their families and will go get paid in Europe if there’s no season. The owners cannot let the players walk away because without those players their $400 million investment is worthless because no one’s going to pay money to go see replacement player. That’s the bottom line. They’ve already taken the average fan out of the game with the ticket prices, the parking, and the concessions. Corporate’s not going to pay for a box to go see a mediocre, replacement team. The price of popcorn was the price of the seat back in the day.
SLAM: Does the lockout change the dynamic between player and owner?
RS: It’ll do nothing to that relationship. This is a business. A façade. The lockout’s a back and forth between lawyers. A legal negotiation that happens to be about basketball. The lawyers will make themselves as much money as they can and come up with an agreement at the end of the day.
SLAM: There’s also an issue within the owners about revenue sharing and the problem of small market teams losing money.
RS: Yeah, there are teams losing money and they need to get that resolved. Because for those teams to have a chance they need to be playing and trying to win games. Those smaller teams can’t afford a lockout. Teams like New York, Boston, Chicago, they have more opportunities to make money. You could be in Milwaukee and have a great run but you’re endorsements will be limited as opposed to, say, the Knicks if they were to making a deep Playoff [run]. That’s also why it’s hard for big-time players to stay in those markets.
SLAM: Why’s that?
RS: It comes from MJ. He changed it so that a player’s now a brand. And it’s a matter of endorsements, speaking fees and all that. Everyone wants to be like Michael Jordan, and rightfully so. But you can’t get that in a small market.
SLAM: Should the League step in to prevent a flood of their best talent to the big market teams?
RS: It’s complicated. The best thing for the League is to have parity; that’s why the college game is so great. But as a player you have to look out for yourself and family and get what you can get, when you can get it. Let’s be realistic, NBA players are thoroughbreds, they have a limited run.
For the fans it’s bad to have those stacked teams. It takes away from that parity and draws people away from the game. I think both players and owners value that parity too and realize its good for the game but they also want to be on that hot team. Make the money, and have the attention.
SLAM: Can the lockout resolve that tension?
RS: It’s going to be similar to what’s going on now. It’s impossible to have this lockout keep going and they’ll settle it without resolving these major issues. They’ll get back out there because of all the momentum. Because of how good these finals were and all the exciting young talent in the league.
For more on info on Rony, including tour information, check out www.ronyseikaly.com