NBA Playoffs: Let the Games Begin

Point of fact: David Stern is a marketing genius. He has expanded popularity of basketball globally, and kept the NBA popular and relevant here in the US. However even the commissioner can’t control everything, and for the L the timing of the pending lockout couldn’t be worse. On the heels of one of the most successful NBA seasons in years (ratings, attendance way up) comes what looks to be a playoff season for the ages. Big market teams like Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Miami, New York are loaded with talent and all strong enough to win it all. Upstart teams like New Orleans, Memphis, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Oklahoma City are looking to establish themselves as perineal playoff spoilers. We are only in round one, and this year’s NBA playoffs are already absolutely riveting. What will follow these epic playoff battles, which will surely include record high ratings and ueber-buzz? Don’t be surprised to see the league and its owners claiming poverty and an unsustainable business model. Talk about bad timing.

I’ve argued that the NBA by design cannot deliver parity. Small market teams simply can’t compete without hard caps and real revenue sharing. But this year’s playoffs prove that great management and coaching can over come small market disadvantages. Parity seekers can find comfort in San Antonio, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Portland and Indiana, where savvy basketball decisions have helped these markets build exciting young squads that appear to be in great shape for the foreseeable future. The playoffs prove that the current model works, at least for well managed teams.

Yet the league will soon claim that the model is broken. No doubt there are issues. Teams who get stuck with bad contracts are often hamstrung for years. Small market teams struggle to afford the payroll necessary to compete in the modern NBA. But ultimately the league lives and dies with the strength of its players. The L is now full of exciting, talented and charismatic players. The players are the ones who drive ratings, ticket sales and sponsorship dollars. And players have a very limited window during which they make their money. Yes, I am biased. But this really is billionaires vs. millionaires. Big market teams don’t want to share more revenue, so they want players to make the sacrifice to help failing franchises. I don’t see how forcing players to take massive pay cuts is the fair or correct solution. Teams need to make better decisions, and avoid handing out long term contracts to players who don’t deserve them. Small market teams must get creative (or just copy OKC/IND/MEM/ATL) and build teams good enough to energize their local markets. Better management, more revenue sharing, relocating a few teams and (gasp) shutting down a few teams would fix all of the problems the NBA claims to be facing. Tough decisions, but fair decisions that require sacrifice from all sides.

For those of us in the basketball world, these truly are “the best of times and the worst of times”. The NBA is blazing hot right now. Big markets vs. small, superstar individuals vs. scrappy teams, legends vs. youngsters. This is the kind of playoff season that we all wish for. It’s almost too painful to dwell on the fact that what follows is potential armageddon. Let’s enjoy the playoffs, then we’ll see what happens when the real games begin.

What do you think?

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About Bill Sanders

SVP of Personal Brand Management at PMK*BNC. Helping icons from all walks of life to connect with their fans and monetize their brands.
This entry was posted in Athlete Marketing, NBA Lockout, NBA Playoffs, Parity in Sports, Sports Marketing, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to NBA Playoffs: Let the Games Begin

  1. Ryan Sleeper says:

    Nice post, Bill. I agree that this year’s NBA Playoffs are better than average. Once we get past the first round, there will be nothing but great matchups. However, I have been pretty disappointed with the coverage so far. It is simply unacceptable to show elimination games on NBA TV (Spurs / Grizzlies last night, Magic / Hawks tonight). I also think the days of parity in the NBA will soon be a thing of the past. If you’re interested, check out my post from earlier this season, When Did the NBA Become MLB?

    • Bill Sanders says:

      I’m with you Ryan. I actually think the NBA is split into three groups: big market teams loaded with stars, small/mid market teams that are well managed and poorly run small market teams. Forget about average p&l, instead look at bottom line of each team. No need to worry about the Lakers, Bulks, Heat, Knicks, etc. They sell out at top dollar and generate huge revenues through sponsorships and broadcast rights. Call them the elite. The middle class roughly break even through solid management and a loyal fan base. The bottom rung includes poorly run teams in markets that can’t support them. You are right-sounds just like baseball.

      Great blog by the way! I’ll add it to my resource tab!

  2. Sophia says:

    Totally agree, NBA will always be around. Not to mention one of the biggest games ever, the players make the team. Really doesn’t matter how well you look or how good you play if you don’t enough charisma to bring in the ticket sales! Besides, football players should not be punished just because there is financial difficutly-that should not be the players problem. So true, not fair.

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