Sports Opinion & Analysis

The NBA, Brought To You By___________.

In NBA on July 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

No one’s ever accused the NBA of being fair. Of not favoring certain players or certain teams in certain large markets. Of not putting the integrity of the game or its fans above the almighty dollar.

Yet with Friday’s decision to begin selling advertising space on team jerseys, potentially begining in the 2013-14 season, the NBA has finally lost its soul.

Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics

By selling advertising on uniforms, the league could potentially earn $100 million dollars (only $10 million more than the approximate payroll of the Los Angeles Lakers, give or take a few hundred thousand dollars). This is a necessary evil, Commissioner David Stern claims, because, as was argued during the CBA negotiations and subsequent NBA lockout, the league allegedly isn’t making any money. Its so dire, Stern says, that  the league had to actually borrow $175 million dollars last year, just to support 15 of the league’s 30 teams. If the NBA does not sell 2.5-inch-by -2.5-inch ad space on their jerseys, Stern argues, the league simply will not survive.

Stern and the rest of the NBA executives allege that soccer clubs, worldwide, have profited from massive logos over their entire uniform, and no one has ever seemed to complain. That the WNBA sold advertising space as their primary logo a few years ago, and look at them for how this decision has been beneficial.

But what Stern fails to realize is that the NBA isn’t soccer. And it isn’t the WNBA.

Quick, name three-out-of-five WBNA players. Okay, name two-out-of-five. Okay, name one.

The WNBA wouldn’t even exist without alternate means of revenue, because no one seems to go to WNBA games. Even during the league’s Finals, thousands of tickets are given away, and arenas during WNBA games are almost entirely empty. In fact, if it weren’t for the WNBA’s surmounting losses being subsidized by the NBA, the WNBA would vanish from the Earth, no matter how much money was collected by advertising.

Soccer, on the other hand, has a thirty-year history of advertisements on their uniforms. It’s now the culture of the sport, and has consequently become so accepted, it would be as weird not having ads on soccer uniforms as it would be offensive for the NBA to have them. The cultures of the two sports have gone, throughout their respective lifetimes, in such completely different directions regarding uniform aesthetics that the fans who cheers for the NBA will not accept advertisements like soccer fans have. They are two drastically different fan cultures, and to compare the two is like comparing apples-to-oranges. It doesn’t translate.

Instead, the NBA should look into other methods of securing revenue needed for the league to profit besides advertising. One of the main options they should start researching is parity.

Introducing the Sony-Red Bull-Maxi Pad-Dark Knight Rises-Knicks of New York.

Since the league’ inception, only 18 teams have ever won the NBA Finals, and one of those teams, the Baltimore Bullets, do not even exist anymore. Of all those teams, only ten teams have won a championship more than once, and two teams, the Lakers and the Celtics, have won exactly half (33 titles combined) of all NBA championships. Quite frankly, at the start of any given NBA season, a fan can pretty much count on one hand the teams likely to win it all at the end of that year.

If teams aren’t making money, like Stern claims they aren’t, that’s because practically every team in the league never wins, and their fans have simply (and rightfully) given up knowing nothing changes in the NBA; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. It’s like, where’s the Occupy Movement when you really need them?

Milwaukee Bucks, meet Los Angeles Lakers.

If the league was really interested in making money, they would abandon the idea of uniform ad sale, and instead create a hard-cap for league payrolls. No longer would big markets get to outspend everyone else, and no longer would Super Teams and Big Threes exist. Instead, every team would have their own star (maybe two), every team would have a chance, and every arena would be sold out, because nothing fuels fans to spend their money more so than hope. Hope that this year might be it. That this year might finally be their team’s year. Hope that someone besides the Lakers and Celtics will finally win it all.

If the NBA is interested in their fans and fan experience, if they really want to create a sustainable product, then they would foster an environment where every fan, not just those in Los Angeles or Boston, Miami or New York, have reason to be invested in their team. Where the small market guys aren’t just fodder for the big guys. Where it doesn’t matter what’s on the jersey, because people are buying it.

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