NBA's Talk of Competitive Balance is a Sham

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20: Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver (L) and the owner of San Antonio Spurs Peter Holt speak to members of the media after NBA labor negotiations at Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers on October 20, 2011 in New York City. Silver announced that talks have broken down and no further meetings are scheduled. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The NBA lockout talks between the owners and the Player's Association have fallen apart once again, as both sides still cannot agree on the split of BRI.  Moreover, Derek Fisher says the owners are flat out lying to us.

I agree with him.


The owners are framing these lockout talks as a bid for competitive balance, so that small market teams like Sacramento can compete with the big markets like L.A. and Dallas.  But that simply is not true.  No matter how much the NBA says they want to have parity like the NFL, the fact remains that the NBA will always be dominated by stars, and one player can have a huge impact on team success, regardless of the market they're in.

The NBA likes to talk about the NFL as an example of the parity that they'd like to see, but the NFL's parity comes greatly from the fact that they only play 16 games and have an elimination style playoff format.  The NBA's 82 games and 7 game playoff series lead to a lot less flukes happening.  Sure, you see the occasional 8th seed taking out the 1st seed, as we had this year, but how often do you see the 8th seed going to the Finals?  The one time it did happen was in the shortened 1998-99 season, a shortened 50 game season that had a lot more margin for error.

And then there are the stars themselves, the real reason there will never be competitive balance in the NBA.  Of all professional sports, an NBA player has the most impact on a game.  Look at the Kings, for example, and how quickly they fell out of contention after C-Webb's injury.  

How many teams have won a title without a true superstar?  The only one I can think of is the Detroit Pistons in 2004, and while that team didn't have superstars, they had Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace in their primes, as well as young, productive Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur.

Then there's the fact that being a big market doesn't guarantee success.  Look at the Knicks of the last 10 years.  They've had some of the highest salary in the league throughout the decade and have just now started getting good again with their acquisitions of Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony (who they essentially gutted their assets to get).   And the Knicks aren't historically great or anything.  They've won two championships ever, both in the early 70s.  That's about 40 years without winning a title, and have a lower overall winning % than small market teams like Indiana, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City/Seattle, Orlando, Portland, San Antonio, and Utah.  Other big market teams have been even worse, with Atlanta, Golden State, LAC, and Washington below that.

Look at the Los Angeles Clippers under Donald Sterling.  They're in L.A., a big market, had a whole bunch of cap space last year, and they weren't even able to get a conversation with any of the big name free agents.  They had to settle for Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye.  Chicago won six titles in the 1990s on the backs of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, both acquired through the draft.  They didn't gain prominence again until recently, when they drafted Derrick Rose.

As for Free Agency, bigger cities and markets will always be more attractive to Free Agents.  Who was the last big name free agent to go and leave for a small market team? Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill going to Orlando is the only case I can think of, and Orlando has a lot of perks despite being a small market.

The owners don't really care about competitive balance.  The teams with the best players or the greatest stars will always win, and most of those stars are drafted or traded for using young prospects from the draft (see how Boston got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen).  What the owners care about is making a guaranteed profit, all on the backs of the players.  At least be upfront about it.

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