x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

NBA: Exercise in folly is ill-timed

The lockout that froze the league in place on Friday takes foolishness to another level because owners and players have put at risk the coming season just as the league seemed to reach new heights of popularity.

Any work stoppage in professional sport is a particularly egregious exercise in folly, representing as it does a conscious decision to shut off the money machine fuelled by fans and sponsors.

The lockout that froze the NBA in place on Friday takes foolishness to another level, however, because owners and players have put at risk the coming season just as the league seemed to reach new heights of popularity.

The season that concluded on June 12 was widely seen as the greatest in NBA history: better players, bigger names, more international players, greater rivalries.

The saga of the Miami Heat, who recruited the out-of-contract LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play with Dwyane Wade in a controversial aggregation of stars, presented the league with a storyline not resolved until the NBA finals, when the teamwork of the Dallas Mavericks trumped the individual star power of the Heat.

The season ended with a sense that the NBA was gaining on the NFL as the most popular sport in the US and establishing itself as perhaps the No 2 sport in the world, behind football.

The lockout threatens that forward momentum. a collective exercise in self-destruction rooted, of course, in money.

NBA officials insist that all but eight of 30 clubs lost money in the past season, in part because 57 per cent of all revenues went to players. The league would like to see that pushed toward 40 per cent. The players want the status quo. Both sides are digging in. The money machine is shut off and a season is in peril.