*NBA team owners may have set themselves up with a big payday, but if LeBron James has anything to do with it, the players will get their fair share of the pie.
Multiple reports note that the athlete had a message for owners, who just signed an agreement with ESPN/ABC and TNT on Monday that will bring in $2.66 billion in annual revenue to the league. The new deal, which will go into effect and run through the 2024-25 season, is an extension of the current agreement, which has the NBA making $930 million annually.
Aware of what just happened, James had this to say later that day, according to reports:
“I am kind of the guy that has the power, I guess, without even having to put a name on it. … I’m very educated and I will use what I have to make sure our players are taken care of.
“At the end of the day, we will negotiate. We know it’s going to happen at some point because our deal is ending soon. We would love to do it sooner than later. We don’t want to it to happen like it happened last time when we went into a lockout.
“The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners were telling us they were losing money. There’s no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now. After we continue to see teams selling for billions of dollars, being purchased for $200 million, signing for $550, $750 and $2 billion and now (Mikhail) Prokhorov is possibly selling his majority stake in the Nets for over $1 billion. That will not fly with us this time.”
As it stands now, either side can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement that was agreed on in December 2011 after a 161-day lockout, after the 2016-17 season.
With James’ two-year, $42.1 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers set to expire the same time as the existing TV deal (not to mention him being the most popular and high-profile player in the NBA), his comments carry a lot of weight.
Media sources note that there was definitely some thought put into having the end of James’ contract come at the same time as the existing TV deal did not happen by accident.
“It was being a businessman,” James told ESPN of his decision to sign a two-year deal in July rather than a max four-year deal. “I understand the business of this sport. It had a lot to do with it.”
According to Bloomberg, James has put himself in a good position as the shortened deal could result in him making an extra $50 million when he signs his next contract.
Speaking at a news conference announcing the new TV deal, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confessed that James has followed the example of with agreeing to contracts that would expire at the same time with the current TV deal and banking on the fact that more money can be made with being going into free agency again.
“Certain agents and players have been timing their contracts,” Silver said.
As for whether James’ strategy will come at the expense of another lockout, the all-star didn’t seem worried about what some feel is the next issue the mind every person with a vested interest in the NBA?
“Clock ticking? The clock never stopped,” James told ESPN regarding the countdown to the summer of 2017. “Even after we came out of the lockout and signed a new deal, the clock never stopped.”