What Would a Lockout Mean for the NBA? (And NBA on TV?)

By Alex Weprin Comment

In addition to “The Decision,” a possible NBA lockout following the 2010-2011 season was a topic of discussion at Turner Sports’ NBA on TNT lunch earlier today.

TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley got the discussion started, after a reporter noted that New York Knicks fans that want to buy tickets when the Miami Heat come to town have to also buy tickets for a number of lesser games… as well as Rangers tickets.

“Fans have been getting screwed a long time, its nothing new,” Barkley said. “This is going to be a big year in sports. I think we have the best commissioner in sports [the NBA’s David Stern], and he has to find a way to not have a lockout. Because to me, whether you are the NFL or NBA, I think it would be catastrophic to have a lockout in the middle of a recession.

“The average NBA star makes $5 million, we can’t say to people that guys making $10 or $15 million dollars are going to lock out or go on strike, the same thing with the NFL. That would be the tipping point, I truly believe that.”

NBA on TNT analyst Steve Kerr gave his take on what the odds are of a lockout happening:

“Who knows what the chances are, but I think there are two factors that didn’t exist in 1999,” Kerr said. “One is that the owners in ’99 were sitting a on a pot of gold, when they bought their teams for $30 or $40 million dollars. Jerry Colangelo bought the Suns for $44 million in 1988, sold it for $400 million in 2004. All those guys that bought in for $20 or $30 million, they were willing to lose some cash from year to year, knowing there was a payday at the end. Now there is a new generation of owners that bought in at $300 or $400 million dollars, they are not sitting on that huge escalation of franchise value, they are less willing to absorb those losses.

“The other factor is that the economy in 1999 was fine, in fact it was doing really well. In 2010 the world economy is bad and everybody knows it. All of these owners have side businesses, in many cases their main businesses, and they are struggling on that side of things too. There is less likelihood of owners continuing to take losses now.”

As for the TV side of things, Turner Sports president David Levy says that the network is prepared for whatever happens:

“We obviously have contingency plans put in place,” Levy said. “We certainly hope there won’t be a lockout. For us, we are prepared, and hoping for the best.”