The number “51” would have been magic

NEW YORK — The magic number was 51, but neither side would go there.

As a result: Poof! It all went up in smoke.

Some trick, eh? The ultimate disappearing act. Million of dollars, millions of fans —  all of them gone quicker than you can say Abracadabra.

If commissioner David Stern is to be taken at his word, all hopes for a full 82-game NBA season are now gone after negotiations to end the lockout broke off Friday over the issue of how to divide the financial pie.

“Billy (Hunter) said the players were not willing to go a penny lower than 52 percent, he said had been getting a lot of calls from agents, and he picked up his book and walked out of the room,” Stern said, adding that “under no circumstances” could there now be a full 82-game season.

Stern also said the sides had resolved all but three issues: The split of basketball related income, the question of whether tax-paying teams would be alowed to use the mid-level exception, and whether tax-paying teams could engage in sign-and-trade transactions. Agreements were reached, Stern said, on a more punitive luxury tax rate, full payments of contracts for the upcoming season, on the maximum length of contracts (the owners acquiesed on that and agreed to the union’s demand of five-year contracts for Bird free agents, four years for others) and on several other system issues that had taken up the majority of the sides’ time as they met for nearly 30 hours over the past three days.

But then they decided to talk about the infamous “elephant in the room,” and Stern told the players the owners were willing to do a 50/50 split.

That was not what the players were expecting to hear, especially after Stern had said the previous night that everything was negotiable, and it was the moment that killed the talks.

If Stern had said 51, which would have represented a $40 million move on his part, they’d probably still be in the conference room finishing off this deal.   

Instead, they climbed into their limousines and went their separate ways, leaving everyone guessing what the next step will be to put an end to this madness, and when that next step might be taken.

They are now a mere $80 million per season apart. Their sport generates $4.2 billion in annual revenues. The players have given back $200 million per season over 10 years, a total of $2 billion, which is still not enough.

So the village shall be burned in order to save it. Yes, this is as strange as it is sad and stupid.

“I would say both sides are very badly damaged.  The amount of dollars lost to the owners is extraordinary, and the amount of dollars lost to the players under individual contracts is also extraordinary.  There will be two severe sets of losses.  But that’s what happens in a labor dispute where there’s a shutdown,” Stern said. “And invariably you could make computations about who’s going to be able to make it back and who’s not going to be able to make it back, and I’m not sure that anytime in the short run the owners will be able to make it back.  And I know for a fact that in the short run the players will not be able to make it back, and probably never will be able to make it back.”

Stern said the next offer the owners will make will take into account the financial losses the owners are taking by losing a chunk of the 2011-12 season, which means the players may not like what they hear the next time the sides meet.

The owners’ next offer might very well begin with a “forty.”

“We had three different indications that led us to believe that 50/50 would get the job done,” Stern said.

Obviously, 50/50 won’t get the job done. A 51/49 offer might have.

Why didn’t Stern make a move on that number?

Only he knows the answer, and he’ll be taking it to bed with him.

Hopefully, it’ll be a sleepless night for the commissioner who wouldn’t budge when he merely needed to bend.



  1. TIM MCCOY says

    The owners should offer 50.25% to the players. The players can then claim victory and say they got a bigger slice of the pie.

  2. Bill says

    What both sides have not considered is that their approximate numbers are off, because each day they lose money that fans like myself will not spend going to see games, or buying jerseys from the NBA store, or paying for League Pass.

    Quit being so selfish and end the lockout!

  3. Jeff says

    Why don’t James Dolan just lease out a title sponsor and save the NBA season? Boston Garden did it, and made it TD Bank? So just call it like Netflex Square Garden and make $400 million for the next 10 years and donate all to the NBA Union. You will be loved in NY and in the NBA. You might even get into the HOF.

  4. says

    I wish that someone in the media would stand up and ask Stern if – with the economy being what it is,with so many cities struggling, so many people on the edge, etc. -he doesn’t see a MORAL imperative to get things done for the general good – and as responsible corporate citizens – instead of trying to wring every last dollar out of the negotiations. Or put another way. Does he think that when the Revolution comes, NBA owners’ heads might be among the first to roll?

    • Steven says


      That statement is part of the problem, this is a negotiation and therefore the Fallout must be directed at both parties.

      This is two parties who have moved to the last three issues to be resolved.

      Common sense may yet force them together.

  5. paulpressey25 says

    Chris, the owners have caved on the issues of:

    1) Non Guaranteed contracts
    2) Franchise Tag
    3) Length of contracts being 4/5 rather than 3/4
    4) $5 million dollar MLE
    5) Less punitive luxury tax

    As a small market fan, I’m wondering what the heck just happened. We had visions of a system like the NFL or NHL and will likely end up with a re-fried, slightly better version of the WWE system that his been in place for a number of years.

    So now Stern should give further? Ridiculous.

    The owners need to hold firm on the 50-50, hold firm on not allowing lux tax payers to blow their salaries even higher with the MLE and hold firm on limiting S&T’s with lux tax payers.

    Again myopic to think that the sides are only “$80 million apart”. You take the MLE away from the taxpaying teams and are in all likelihood saving perhaps $450 million over the life of this deal and improving competitive balance. Thus they aren’t $80 million apart. And individually what difference does it make to a small or mid-market owner (i.e. the gang of 22) as to whether they lose a few bucks short term but stand the ability to have a much better situation for themselves long-term. Both financially and competitively.

    This one is on the players. Those guys could easily take 50-50 and the MLE/S&T limits and walk away grateful the whole player friendly system wasn’t blown up for an NFL style CBA.

    • Joel says

      with or without the mle, the BRI is the BRI. even with all the rashard lewises, eddy currys and gilber arenas, the nba still gave back the escro tax because the players received less than their share of the BRI.

    • OAKIE43 says


      First off the owner threw out the most rediculous proposal in history off all sports to start with and to say the owners gave concessions on things players already have leads me to believe that you are either an nba owner, work for the nba, david stern, adam silver or just some idiot who knows nothing about anything. This is not the NFL, you cannt easily replace a football player with another star but in the world of the nba, there is only one type of lebron James, One Dwight Howard and so on and so on. The Nba is a star driven league who popularity is based on the stars of the league and not the individual teams if you dont think this ask the Miami Heat what has the 3 stars done for the value of the team and the popularity of that team, or better yet look at what happened with the Rockets when Yao Ming left the building they still get the support but not as much as it did when he was there. Players have gave up from 57% to 52 % that is over 200 million give backs a little less than what owners claim they are loosing. And 50% split is not really a 50% split cause owners still have expenses they get off the top. I feel that NBA has expanded to fast to too many small market cities, Milwaukee, San Antonio, Sacramento, New Orleans, Charlotte, Orlando, IN THE FAMOUS WORDS OF MICHAEL JORDAN “IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO COMPETE SELL YOUR TEAM!!”

  6. Joel says

    if games are to be played December 1st, which is what most of us thought, then today crossed no barrier that says that can’t still be true. I get that things were “supposed” to happen today but did anyone really think 1 session would hammer out the BRI? the real cut-off date for a december 1st start is about the 5 or 6th of november, after which there wont be enough time to start. I think the sides will sit for the weekend, talk via the phone on monday and reconvene the middle of next week to make one last push at playing 2011 nba, if not, the season is in serious jeopardy.

  7. Steven says

    My question why would you expect David Stern to offer 51%. it seems the noise is affecting the hearing of the union crowd

    If the owners claim they are losing $300 million based on 57/43 split. than 7 x 40 = 280 million

    Where the owners achieve reduction of long term contracts to 5/4. Where the players receive guarantee contacts , what happens if the owners say let’s do what the NHL does . Says there are no more contracts that are guaranteed.

    I think that for 80 million , or $177,777 a player . So in turn they lose another amount of income that I suggest equal to or greater than the difference. What their economist has lock jaw.

    They still have the same form of the system. They have guaranteed contracts even if amnesty exists.

    The tragedy is occupy wall street has a new member . This deal is silly, union has the same format as before , in turn and would have the system for 6 to 10 years. And the owners still lose 100 million based on the accounting measure known as Gaap

    The union may wish they had accepted this offer a year from now

    NBA and union has conceded many issues, how is the labour board going to rule either party has not negotiated in good faith

    What is Billy Hunter talking about the agents calling him and walks out of the room.

    Pox on both their houses and now the pain really begins for the players. The NBA will survive, the players will commence barnstorming and playing in European obscurity

    The fan will bitch initially however the real curse are the families whose livelihood is affiliated to the players and owners of the NBA during this economic downturn

    Just remember when the NBA rises from the ashes the players , whoever they maybe will receive the percentage of the rewards as the NBA grows at 1% or more over the next decade.

  8. MinneMike says

    I think we are close. Lots of conjecture of who could have done what, but Stern is representing the NBA franchise owners who are less glamorous than the players and has to look out for their interests to.

    We are so close that the next meeting could do it. Someone has to blink.

  9. Fysh says

    As a fan, the league makes me want to throw up. They have won the lockout. Now it’s a matter of dancing and spitting on player’s graves. Yesterday’s presser antics by Stern were a complete farce. Most likely part of his pr plan to make players look bad when they put a bri # they knew wouldn’t fly. If stern could really see a deal he knows it wasn’t 50/50..put out 51 or 51.5 and hunter has something to sell. Pathetic! I’m a die hard fan and I actually believed today was a big day..shame on me


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>