What is the NBA lockout

Basketball: NBA power struggle for millions - lockout looming

Full arenas, spectacular shows by the superstars and a commissioner who prognosticated "the most beautiful season in the history of the league". But David Stern, the powerful NBA boss, as well as Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Co, know that the most exciting duel of the season could not be the title race, but the power struggle between club bosses and the NBAPA players' union.

Both sides are haggling over a new labor agreement. The current contract ends on June 30, 2011. And because in the duel between billionaires and millionaires the parties are still as far apart as the basketball hoops on the floor despite multiple negotiations, a lockout threatens. NBAPA President Billy Hunter believes there is "99 percent professional lockout."

Nowitzki is also aware of the serious situation. "I think we players have to be ready for anything and I assume that there will be a lockout," said the man from W├╝rzburg. The German star of the Dallas Mavericks and his nearly 400 NBA colleagues together earn around 2.1 billion dollars. That's almost $ 800 million too much for Stern. "We would like to be profitable again, get something back from the investment," says the league boss.

He takes every opportunity to emphasize that half of the 30 NBA teams are in the red. In the preseason, the owners made around 400 million dollars in losses, this season threatens a minus of 350 million. Therefore, according to the demand, the income of the players should be reduced from the current 57 to 50 percent. On the other hand, the players' side maintains that salaries have already declined over the past three years. "It's always said that the teams lose money. But there is a great risk that these teams will no longer exist after a lockout," said Hunter.

At the last lockout on July 1, 1998, he represented the interests of the players. In January 1999, Hunter was able to come to an agreement with the owners, the season began on February 5th and was reduced from 82 to 50 preliminary round games. A total of 464 games were canceled, the professionals lost tens of millions of dollars in salaries, and the owners more than ten times as much in income. The biggest loss, however, was the fan base. Fan merchandise sales fell rapidly, and the NBA had to contend with falling audience numbers for the next three years.

"We have to win back the fans," said Stern at the time. "I'm afraid the league won't survive another lockout under these economic conditions," said Hunter. Joe Smith of the New Jersey Nets remembers 1998 well. "It was difficult for all of us to recover. We players were locked out, but the fans thought we were going on strike to get more money. I don't think either side wants to go through that again."

A lockout would have drastic consequences for the older stars. Not only the then 33-year-old Nowitzki would lose a valuable season in the worst case, but also Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Shaquille O'Neal would be hit hardest. At 38 years of age, the oldest professional in the league signed a two-year contract with record champions Boston Celtics in the summer. After that, according to O'Neal, it will definitely be over.