“Shortly before we published this post, the NBA announced that the owners and players had reached an agreement to end the NBA lockout. But the ideas here will still be useful for future NBA lockouts…”
Basketball fans have been following the ongoing saga of the NBA lockout, which now threatens to cancel the entire 2011-2012 NBA season. This is bad news for basketball fans and for all of the league employees and other workers who rely on NBA games to bring in a paycheck, but one question that hasn’t been fully explored (although the New York Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire has mentioned it): why don’t the players start their own league?
If the players feel disrespected by the NBA owners (which they do), if the players feel like the current NBA system doesn’t adequately value the players’ talents, then why can’t the players start a business of their own and become the “owners” of a new professional basketball league?
Instead of relying on the existing system of teams owned by others, perhaps NBA players could capitalize on the American entrepreneurial spirit and start a business (and a league) of their own.
Even more than other pro sports, the players are the true “product” of the NBA. People aren’t paying to see the logos and the uniforms and the owners, they’re paying to see the talent on the basketball court.
I don’t mean to sound flippant or naïve here, but what is the real “value” being added by the NBA owners? It’s not like most NBA teams have an enduring tradition; as the lockout continues, people aren’t pining away for the storied history of the Minnesota Timberwolves or Charlotte Bobcats. The real value being created in the NBA is being created by the talented basketball players competing on the floor, not by the team executives schmoozing in the luxury suites. As Will Leitch wrote in the Atlantic “Ideas Issue” in Jan. 2011, “The Players Own the Game:”
Owners might not realize where this is headed, but as the players make more money than ever in outside endorsement deals, their dependence on the leagues is waning. The athletes control these businesses—it’s the players’ jerseys we’re wearing, not the owners’.
This is an important point, beyond the NBA: in today’s business world, talent has the power, more than ever before.
Whether you’re a basketball player or a graphic designer or a writer or a consultant or business coach, if you have a talent and the energy to promote yourself, in many ways it’s easier than ever before to start a business and make money from your talent. Thanks to the Internet, you don’t need the traditional “structure” and the old “gatekeepers” and intermediaries that used to be required to start a business or make money from your skills and ideas. In today’s interconnected world, starting a business is mostly a matter of capitalizing on your own talent, building your own audience, and using your internal drive to get out there and show the world what you can do.
How would it work if the NBA players were to start their own league?
They would need to start a business and incorporate – most likely as a for-profit Corporation with a board of directors. They would need to manage all the business filings along the way – maybe CorpNet could help. (Hint, hint.)
But how would the new pro basketball league form teams and assign players to each team? I’m not an expert on pro basketball, so I’ll defer to Bill Simmons and Jay Kaspian Kang at Grantland, who put together a ridiculously-well-thought out hypothetical blueprint for a new pro basketball league with the current NBA players.
What about the marketing, legal negotiations, stadium leases and TV contracts? Perhaps the new NBA could rely on help from their online friends and fans – surely there are a lot of diehard basketball fans who are also excellent attorneys and accountants? Maybe the new league could crowdsource some new team logos using resources like Crowdspring or 99Designs – or they could hire marketing staff on Elance to set up new team websites and promote the new league.
Of course, there are many reasons why this new “startup NBA” might not work. The current NBA teams have established “brands,” fanbases, TV and stadium deals, and multi-million dollar marketing budgets. It would be impossible to replace all of that overnight. Not all of the current NBA players would be able to find a roster spot in the new, likely smaller and less-lucrative, “Player’s NBA.”
But it’s worth thinking about. If you feel disrespected by your “team owners,” maybe it’s time for you to think about creating a “league of your own” by starting your own business. It’s easier than ever before to find the help you need online – starting with a free business consultation from CorpNet.