Why NBA collective bargaining is so difficult, and some possible tweaks that could benefit all parties


LeBron James was the players’ association first vice president when the union last negotiated the CBA in 2016 and is one of the few players worthy of a supermax deal. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A few months ago, when I was considering the conversation around Bradley Beal’s loyalty to the Washington Wizards, I was struck by the double-edged sword that is the NBA’s supermax contract.

Beal, a three-time All-Star, two-time 30 points-per-game scorer and one-time All-NBA selection, is criticized for receiving the five-year, $251 million deal he earned as one of the premier talents in his profession, and the Wizards catch heat for paying him. Both want to win a championship together, but paying a homegrown star to be one could preclude them from fulfilling that promise to the consumers who subsidize his salary.

So, I started asking around about issues anyone had with supermax contracts and their 35% correlation to the salary cap in light of the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations. The most striking of responses I heard from one agent was this: “There are so many problems with it, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

Months later, following two extensions of a December deadline for either the NBA or its players’ association to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement at season’s end, I have been down that rabbit hole and seen the same light. No solution will ever satisfy all parties. Obstacles to sweeping changes of the existing salary cap system are also too great for both sides to find common ground on an entirely new vision before the current CBA expires in 2024, much less by the impending March 31 opt-out deadline.

This precedes the expiration of the league’s media rights deal in 2025, when the current nine-year, $24 billion pact could double or even triple. Breakdowns in CBA negotiations might impact the next order of business, so both the NBA and NBPA anticipate an agreement on collective bargaining sooner than later, league sources told Yahoo Sports. “Everyone is benefiting, so why upset the gravy train?” one source said.

Who benefits most is another matter entirely and one that might have…


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Publish date : 2023-03-14 17:04:36

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