Just when you thought that the possible decertificiation of the National Basketball Players Association was the biggest threat to the 2011-2012 NBA season, the Greatest Basketball Player Of All Time is reportedly stepping into the forefront, reminding everyone that the world of hoops still revolves around him.
NBA legend Michael Jordan, the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, is reportedly leading a band of owners who believe that a 50/50 split of Basketball-Related Income is too much for the owners to give up.
The New York Times has the details.
The owners’ faction includes between 10 and 14 owners and is being led by Charlotte’s Michael Jordan, according to a person who has spoken with the owners. That group wanted the players’ share set no higher than 47 percent, and it was upset when league negotiators proposed a 50-50 split last month.Assuming the report's accurary, it's a fairly stunning about-face for Jordan. In 1998, just 13 years ago, Jordan famously told Abe Pollin, then owner of the Washington Wizards, that he should sell his team if he can't make a profit, rather than take a "hard stand" against the players. Fourteen years later, with the situation reversed, Jordan now so embodies hard-line ownership that he has become the group's public face.
According to the person who spoke with the owners, Jordan’s faction intends to vote against the 50-50 deal, if negotiations get that far. Saturday’s owners meeting was arranged in part to address that concern.
A majority of the 29 owners are believed to support a 50-50 deal, but they are reluctant to move further. “There’s no one who’s interested in going above 50 percent,” said the person who has spoken with the owners.
Removing Jordan from this equation, you don't have to read too far between the lines to see what's happening.
This is the ownership's response to the idea that the threat of decertification might serve as leverage to improve the owners' offer to players during Saturday's negotiating session. It produces a clear choice for the players: Take a 50/50 split, which you say that you don't want, because it will be the best offer made, period. And, please, consider the fact that there is a large, vocal minority pushing the offer back the other direction if you decide not to accept it. In other words, this information attempts to incentivize the players to cave now rather than to cave later. It appeals to any insecurity they might have about the direction of the negotiations, presents 50/50 as a reasonable alternative to the season-spiking chaos that goes along with decertification, and attempts to extinguish any hope that 52.5 percent, or even 51 percent, is a future possibility.
That Jordan has become the front man for all of this could very well end up taking some of the luster off his pristine reputation as the years pass. Or, it could get swept under the rug like many of his other transgressions. His motiviations are clear enough. the Bobcats struggle to win games, struggle to sell tickets and struggle to generate revenue. They can make a better case than most teams that the NBA's current model is broken.
But the Bobcats' struggles will be lost in the shadow that Jordan's legend inevitably casts over everything in his vicinity. Each individual NBA player -- whether he's attended regional meetings, negotiating sessions, or not -- must now process the fact that the man many of them hold up as an idol on the court now clearly sits on the other side of the room in the current labor battle.
It's one thing to negotiate against NBA commissioner David Stern. It's quite another to know that Stern is the good guy trying to hold the greatest to ever lace them up in check. You couldn't blame NBA players if they felt deflated after reading this. Negotiating against lawyers is bad enough. Negotiating against your hero is damn near impossible.
Hat tip: Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don't Lie