Growing up I hated Kobe Bryant, Probably because I was too naive and drank the Boston kool-aid that makes us all “overly enthusiastic” for our teams. Today, I understand and appreciate all that he has done and given to basketball. The world needed someone after Michael, and there he was. Last week, after I was watching that circus of an All-Star game and Kobe Bryant stepped off the court one last time I realized how strange of a period the NBA is in.
The league hasn’t been in better shape, and I have no doubt that it’ll one day pass the NFL (I don’t know when! But c’mon almost a billion people play basketball). But this is something special; we’re in the early process of ushering out some of the greatest contributors to the game.
We have sure-fired 1st ballot Hall of Fame players, looking to bolster their resumes and elevate themselves to that next tier of legends.
We have a bevy of Superstars hitting that are hitting the prime of their careers.
And an emergence of young talent that will launch the National Basketball Association into the stratosphere.
Today, when I say “that kids good” it really applies, and that blows. It’s hard to imagine a league without Kobe, one day Lebron will be gone, and KD will be a thing of the past. The NBA will remain, but how will it look?
Let’s take a jump that rabbit hole.
This year’s salary cap is set at $70 million. Next year, $89 million. The projected cap two years from now is a staggering $108 million. Next year is the beginning of the NBA’s new 9-year $26 BILLION dollar contract with ESPN and Turner sports. This can spearhead a lookout in next year’s NBA season though, due to an opt-out in the current collective bargaining agreement. The last CBA (2011) saw the players take a -7% hit on their revenues. Now they’re at an even 50/50 split with the league when sharing revenues. Franchises across the league claim to be losing money (they may or may not), a good reason why in the last CBA the player’s revenue took a hit. As they player contracts begin to grow, Adam Silver will need to restructure the labor agreement (Thank god it’s not Goodell). Nevertheless, money will be flying around the NBA for some time. Lock-out possibly to come.
Let’s shift the focus over to the young professionals now. Right off the bat their childhood wishes are granted, making seven or eight figures to play ball. D’Angelo Russell is making $5.1 million to START, Bill Russell had to rebound and defend his way to making $100,000. They are going to capitalize to the fullest, but how will the franchises combat that? Longer contract terms can be a viable option. I was having a conversation with my roommate and he said Hockey and Baseball have the right idea. They can throw massive contracts at these guys and it’ll almost be too big to pass up (Google Bryce Harper potential contract and not shit your pants).
How much is too much money? I believe there has to be a breaking point where it just doesn’t matter anymore, somewhere to the tune of 8-years $320 million sounds reasonable (I would live in Milwaukee too if that were the instance). Having longer terms can stabilize the league too; knowing your cornerstone is locked up for almost the next decade allows you to build through the draft. Under the assumption the league continues to grow then those max deals won’t be that much of a financial burden, as the cap rises year after year that expense will accost for less and less (the Jae Crowder deal is MAGIC, and a good example).
On the flip-side, more and more we hear that current pros across all sports haven’t touched their career earnings and have only spent endorsement money, the kids see that. What we don’t see are the kids walking into the league with PhDs in social media. They’re about to kill it, they are in a rare sport where you share the floor with nine other guys and your faces (brands) are plastered across my television screen. So what will happen moving forward? You’re going to see them EVERYWHERE! The basketball culture is exploding into fashion, music, acting, or whichever outlet their face can be seen. Their phones are personal branding tools, a bridge where the outside world can get to know them as individuals. These guys will be WORKING! Because Michael laid out the blueprint, we’ve just advanced so much in the world there are so many different avenues to take instead of just flat out being the world’s greatest basketball player.
The talent of the league won’t diminish, the players are great! But don’t be surprised when you see their face or logo at every corner. I’m already pissed that my future son will probably want some Thon Maker shoe or something. But the NBA is smart; they are letting these guys go wild because of the direct correlation of twitter/IG/future app followers to game viewers.
It really is amazing to live in a time to see sports blow up so quickly, no matter how strange it looks…