Hubbard column: In a thankless league, we still manage to, well, give thanks

In the spirit of the approaching holiday, I spent a modest amount of time researching the word “turkey,” because I wondered how it might symbolize the essence of the current NBA. There seemed to be a logical connection.

One web site pointed out that the poultry bird became a popular food item because it was an excellent source of meat, and beyond that, it was “easily shot.” Our heroes at the NBA have done an excellent job of shooting – themselves and each other. So there was that.

Ben Franklin thought the turkey to be such an honorable bird that he wanted it to be the symbol of the U.S. rather than the Bald Eagle, whom he described as a “coward.” The key words in that passage are “honorable” and “coward,” but, of course, I’m not going there.

The turkey was commonly served at Thanksgiving in the late 1700s, according to my research, but did not become a national staple until the 1800s. Lots of tradition there – kind of like having NBA games in November.

I never found a definitive explanation of why “turkey” became a word to describe a loser. There were a number of references to the fact turkeys have small heads, thus small brains and, well, they aren’t the brightest animals in the farmyard. Some dispute that but the key words in that passage are “loser” and “brightest.” Of course, I’m not going there.

According to Houghton Mifflin Word Origins, in the 1920s “turkey” became a description of a play or movie that failed, and in the 1950s for a person who is incompetent. So the term has been around a long time and unfortunately as we prepare to miss two games on Thanksgiving and 14 more on Friday, we find ourselves in the midst of a great number of turkeys – and I’m not talking about Ben Franklin’s honorable kind.

As those associated in a variety of direct and non-direct ways with the NBA prepare for Thanksgiving, we try to imagine ourselves sitting with them at the dinner table and giving thanks for the current predicament of the league. And for those with no sense of humor, a warning that these are served with a healthy dose of acerbic trimmings.

So who will the key players be thanking on Thursday? Some possibilities.

David Stern: Thank you for the new owners, who have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the league and, as you know, I’m a guy who’s all about money. I really can’t say thanks for tying my hands and not letting me make a deal because with just a little less asshattery (thanks to my buddy Ken Berger of for that word), I could have gotten the deal done. And although it’s true you new guys have been the largest force in damaging a reputation that I worked so hard to build for the last 28 years as commissioner, you’re still rich and we should all give thanks for that.

Billy Hunter: Thank you David Stern for being so pugnacious. I know you were under pressure from owners, but if you had acted with a little humility, I would have convinced the players to offer a few tweaks and we could have gotten the job done. But now your demeanor has galvanized the players and made me look – at least to them – like the greatest statesman this side of Churchill. You’re a good man. And by the way, unlike you, I’m still getting paid.

Minimum wage players: OK, we make nearly $500,000 a year when we get to play and we owe thanks for that. But most of all, we want to thank the veteran players who have made more than $100 million in their careers and have enough saved up to not work the rest of their lives. Guys like Kevin Garnett and LeBron James have been big loudmouths about not giving in to the owners. Some of us may never play in the NBA again because we are the guys who are the 13th or 14th man on the roster and we are replaced nearly every year. But, hey, thanks vets for teaching us the value of principles. Unfortunately, principles don’t buy Christmas presents, but despite having less money, we are better men because of you guys. We have principles! Yeah!

Lawyers: Thank you David, Billy, owners, players, everybody. We are now officially the controlling party in Occupy NBA and unlike other demonstrators, we are in the top one percent and we owe it all to you guys. Love you. Let’s keep disagreeing.

Fans: Thank you to the commissioner and the owners. You won the negotiations handily over the players. They gave you almost everything you wanted, but you had to have more. The only greed comparable would be if Bill Gates got caught for shoplifting. Thank you owners for teaching us the evil – and the depths – of excess.

Agents: Thank you Paul Pierce for buying into the fracture in the NBPA leadership and helping us organize our conference call with players and our disclaimer of interest movement. We couldn’t have done it without you. Now don’t forget to send us four percent of whatever it is you get paid once this thing gets settled.

NBA Humor: Thank you for @FakeCoachPop: There are a number of people who use Twitter anonymously and use the name of someone famous. The NBA has its share but none of them are as clever as FakeCoachPop, obviously using the nickname of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. FakeCoachPop writes concisely and has effectively captured the tone of the real Pop. Whoever it is literally uses one-liners that make you laugh out loud, especially if you have ever talked or listened to Popovich. During the lockout, FakeCoachPop has been on his, or her, game. Legitimate humor rather than tragicomedy.

NHL Dreamers: Thank you for all those columnists and commentators who suggested an NBA lockout would lead to greater NHL attendance. Hardly. Various reports in late October and mid November indicate NHL attendance is down. In Dallas, where the fans have not been able to celebrate the Mavericks as defending champions, attendance for the Dallas Stars has dropped from 15,073 to 10,432 a game. They are different sports. Fans of both support both; fans of one support only that one. But the silliness of that suggestion provided a humorous moment and we are thankful for every little one.

NBA Cares: Thank you to both parties for caring about playing only when it’s to your benefit. Right now, you simply do not care enough about the most important activity — playing games. Therefore, we’re announcing a name change with approval of all arena workers and business people affected by the lockout. Going forward, your current program will be known as NBA Doesn’t Give A Damn.

Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. His columns appear every Tuesday on Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.


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  3. Troy says

    “Thank you for the new owners, who have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the league and, as you know, I’m a guy who’s all about money.”

    All along, my thing has been why isn’t Stern getting more flack for this? HE is the one responsible for bringing on the new stingy/greedy owners!! If he didn’t think they could make money why was he approving deadbeats like Sarver or the Maloofs? That is on STERN.

      • p00ka says

        PS. When I look at your post in the other thread, I see one I totally agree with, but one was just totally out to lunch. Sorry about the nasty response though.

  4. Jeff Salmon says

    The NHL is so great and the standard so unbelievable that the NHL owners are going to lock the players out again this offseason and we all know missing a season to them is par for the course. Every league should aspire to be the NHL!

    • Jan Hubbard says

      I was referring to playing games, but you make a good point. It’s important to not confuse labor disagreement with community work. So I have made an edit in the last paragraph. Thanks for the input.

  5. Michael says

    If the NHL comment is true, that’s pretty funny.

    For the life of me, I do not understand hockey fans. On my way home yesterday, I saw all these people wearing Washington Capitals jerseys headed towards the game that night and I just couldn’t help but look at them and ask to myself “what are they thinking?” They seem to be like their own special breed of sports fan. I don’t mean that in a negative way, more in like if there was no NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, etc, it would still have zero impact on hockey’s popularity. You either like the fact that your entire sport appears to be based on luck, or you don’t.

    And what bothers me more is when people compare the NHL to the NBA in any way, especially all this hard cap talk. People talk about how it brought more parity to the NFL. Did you know in the the 6 years before the hard cap, 5 different teams won the Stanley Cup? The 6 years after implementing the hard cap, 6 different teams have won, is that really that big a difference in parity? I don’t think so.

    • p00ka says

      You clearly don’t understand the game any more than the fans. You were expressing an arguably logical point about fans not being easily transportable, but your credibility goes down the toilet with the “entire sport appears to be based on luck” statement. Even lacking attraction to the sport, you can’t be that dumb, can you?

      Your expert analysis of the effectiveness of the salary cap in the NHL is a revelation. You should inform the owners and players how dumb they were to finally agree on a system that now sees the league healthier than ever, with both revenues and player salaries rising significantly every year.

      • Michael says

        Well, when revenues and salaries start at such a drastically low point, seeing them rise isn’t really a big deal at all. Heck, their revenue are still just barely over half the NBA’s total revenues.

        And yes, the sport is based on luck. Sorry that gets your panties all in a bunch.

        And besides, you want to talk about dumb, you’re the moron who still thinks system issues and disagreement over the BRI split are related. Please, you’re the last person to talk about dumb people lol

          • Michael says

            Yes, you did. Right here is exhibit A of you being an absolute dumbass-

            “There are other possible explanations, but you don’t seem able to wrap your head around such radical thought such as further reducing expenses by limiting the big spenders’ ability to artificially drive up prices.”- This is exactly why you’re a moron.

            To limit “Big spender’s ability to artificially drive up prices” would have absolutely NOTHING, I repeat, NOTHING to do with reducing expenses.

            Driving up prices- System issue
            Reducing expenses- BRI split

            The NBA can’t reduce player salaries by driving down “prices” because players are guaranteed a certain percentage of BRI each year (previously 57% of BRI). You could starts max contracts at $1 million per year, still wouldn’t reduce a single dollar of expenses because the NBA owes the players a certain percentage of agreed upon BRI.

            So yes, try to defend yourself. Try to call other people dumb. It just shows how much of a worthless little shit you really are.

          • DanH says

            Michael – over the past 4 CBA’s, the BRI split has been driven up by overspending and the lack of a robust escrow system.

            Since the early 90’s the BRI split has grown both in each CBA lifetime and between each CBA (driven in negotiations by that in-life growth). It has gone from 48% to 53% to 55% to 57%, at times exceeding 60%. All that growth has correlated with the introduction and use of more exceptions for teams over the cap – and the growth slowed with the introduction of a tax threshold.

            So in that one regard, the two issues are intertwined. If the owners get the escrow system they want (and that the players vehemently oppose), the two issues will be unconnected. But not before that happens.

          • Michael says

            Wrong again, Dan.

            The owners already have an escrow system in place. And it’s set at 9%. In the owner’s new proposal, it’s set at 10%. Wow, really big fuckin difference right there. And of course, it would be higher considering the drop in player’s share of BRI.

            And what you fail to mention is that in all those previous decades and CBA’s leading up to the one in 1999, there was no escrow system in place. So everything you wrote is irrelevant and in your own words “unconnected”.

          • DanH says

            In the 1999 system, there was an escrow system in place, and due to the 10% limit on escrow withholdings, player salaries extended beyond that limit and reached up to about 63% of BRI. This played a huge role in the following negotiations, where the owners were seen as winners by bargaining the BRI split to 57%.

            Of course, if you actually read the owners’ offer, you’d see that in this offer, if that percentage is exceeded, the owners take the difference out of the players’ retirement benefits – and if that’s not enough (it won’t be, based on the past) ‘other mechanisms’ will be used to make the exact percentage 50%. In the previous CBA the only mechanism the owners had was to adjust the salaries for the next year accordingly – which with free agent spending in no way guaranteed getting that excess money back.

            The players are very much opposed to any sort of guarantee system to ensure the escrow is enough – this is how they’ve grown their earnings in the past, and their lawyers and economists know that. This is one of the biggest issues holding up the talks right now.

          • Michael says

            In the 1999 system? Wtf are you talking about. This is the last time I am going to respond to you again because you literally lie and make things up.

            In 1999, there was no 10% escrow system. There were no following negotiations after 1999 where the owners bargained for and received a 57% split.

            However, in the year 1999, as part of the CBA ratification, the owners did achieve a 57% BRI split in their favor and instituted an escrow system which was never in existence before then. Which was 9%, not 10%. So as I say over and over with you, stop lying.

            With regards to your next paragraph, it’s irrelevant to this discussion. It deals with specific details relating to the implementation of what will be the new escrow system. This however, is unrelated and unconnected to your first post because in the previous CBA’s up until 1999, THERE WAS NO ESCROW SYSTEM. Which was my point. You can’t connect system issues and BRI splits if there is an escrow system in place.

            And with regards to your last paragraph, find proof of this anywhere (but the again, I don’t really care cause I’m not going to respond to you again due to your incessant lying). You realize last year, the players received every single dollar that went in the escrow system, plus whatever the shortfall entailed. So no, this idea the players have “grown their earnings in the past” is a flat out lie, again. It’s been at 57% the last 13 years, unless you can prove otherwise. Which you can’t unless you go and make more shit up again like you always do.

            And if anything, the reason the owners want to guaranteed escrow system has nothing to do with limiting the player’s share of increasing BRI, it has more to do with guaranteeing the players share in BRI drops. Since there will be no rollback of salaries, they need some sort of system to guarantee the cuts. Obviously a 10% withholding of BRI in the escrow system will not be enough. A 7% drop in BRI alone is about 12-13% salary cut. They know the proposed 10% isn’t enough, so they need a guarantee. The players don’t want a guarantee because obviously they don’t want to lose any more money than they have to.

            Anyways, you can respond back. I don’t really care. I’m done. You lied constantly in our last discussion and you’re doing it again so you can just talk to yourself now.

          • DanH says

            I haven’t lied once. I apologize if you don’t like what I’m saying. I’ll try to address this in a matter-of-fact manner.

            1) The escrow system was as follows:
            Negotiated in 1999 agreement, as I stated above:
            1999-01: no escrow implemented until 2001-02
            2001-02: 10% on 55% BRI
            2002-03: 10% on 55% BRI
            2003-04: 10% on 55% BRI
            2004-05: 10% on 57% BRI
            Negotiated in 2005 agreement:
            2005-06: 10% on 57% BRI
            2006-07: 9% on 57% BRI
            2007-08: 9% on 57% BRI
            2008-09: 9% on 57% BRI
            2009-10: 8% on 57% BRI
            2010-11: 8% on 57% BRI

            2) My point was that the salaries were growing before the escrow system was in place, and continued to grow after it was in place. As evidenced by salaries exceeding the escrow limit twice in the 4 escrow years of the 1999 CBA, and the resulting 2005 negotiations resulting in 57% for 6 more years.

            All of my information comes from Larry Coon’s salary cap FAQ. The 1999 version is most relevant here, so I’ll link that one.


            I won’t insist you respond, but I hope you do go read over Coon’s FAQ, since you seem to be interested in this sort of thing and it really is interesting how the CBA structure works.


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