by Jeff Gore
It was only the first day of the new year, but the Orlando Sentinel's resident "Magic Insider" Brian Schmitz was already looking ahead to the next one, postulating that the Magic and the Amway Arena might miss their place in the spotlight--that is, hosting the 2012 NBA All-Star Game--due to a "looming" lockout between NBA players and owners. "The league's showcase event could be wiped out," writes Schmitz.
It's but a ripple of a ripple of the impact of an economic recession that has spared nobody. In October the N.B.A., citing $380 million dollars in losses over the past season, announced its own austerity measures, including a cut of $750 million dollars from player salaries representing an across-the-board reduction of 38 percent from its current $2.1 billion salary pool.
The players' union balked, and as the situation deteriorated over the following months, pundits began to regard a lockout as "inevitable." A lockout could drastically shorten the next NBA season, as it did in 1999, which cheated Philadelphia out of an All-Star Game that didn't come back to the city for another three years.
If you think that living on millions of dollars a year is easy, well...you're probably right, but then again, consider former NBA star Latrell Sprewell's response to an "insulting" $14.6 million offer from the Timberwolves in 2004: ""Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I've got a lot at risk here. I've got my family to feed."
If you'd like to see who's currently above and below the Sprewell poverty line, HoopsHype is a good resource for current player salaries. Dwight Howard is currently pulling in $16,509,600, but with a 38 percent cut, that would deflate to $10,235,952, just barely missing the dreaded seven-digit mark. At the lower end of the totem pole, new team addition Earl Clark, averaging about eight minutes of action per game, is making a measly $1,898,760 annually--and remember, that's before the austerity measures go into effect.
Talk of the lockout reminded this writer of a recent New York Times piece titled "How Superstars’ Pay Stifles Everyone Else." Though somewhat aimless, the article did provide plenty of facts to chew on:
The United States is the rich country with the most skewed income distribution. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average earnings of the richest 10 percent of Americans are 16 times those for the 10 percent at the bottom of the pile. That compares with a multiple of 8 in Britain and 5 in Sweden.
Not coincidentally, Americans are less economically mobile than people in other developed countries. There is a 42 percent chance that the son of an American man in the bottom fifth of the income distribution will be stuck in the same economic slot. The equivalent odds for a British man are 30 percent, and 25 percent for a Swede.
But then again, do the British or Swedes have Dwight Howard, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant?