By Timothy Bella
As it seems more and more likely the players will not take the owners’ recent 50-50 revenue split, the likelihood of there being a season will continue to drop, but that doesn’t mean the ball will stop bouncing for LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and others.
For NBA players who aren’t inclined to take their talents abroad, the short-term answer for their Basketball Jones lies in charity exhibition games, Since the lockout’s official birth on July 1, there have been a multitude of NBA player-hosted charity basketball games of all sizes. From the Miami Heat’s James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh hosting the “South Florida All-Star Classic” in Miami to journeyman Roger Mason Jr. returning to his college home of Charlottesville, Va., to host a game of his own, the charity games are helping to satiate the appetite of fans frustrated by the lockout.
“If you can see LeBron James team up with Chris Paul for one evening or Carmelo Anthony teaming up with Dwyane Wade, it’s exciting,” NYU Sports Management Prof. Wayne McDonnell told CBS. “It is feeding the addiction for basketball, giving you this video-game mentality where you create superstar teams.”
Last month, there was a tentative six-game, four-continent world tour featuring two all-star teams in place, players receiving salaries of anywhere between six figures to $1 million. Only recently was the tour indefinitely postponed. But what would stop players from extending their philanthropic pursuits in the States if they don’t accept the latest labor proposal? Even with the high number of players who have already having gone overseas, including Nets star Deron Williams, the financial stability of some of the leagues abroad have raised eyebrows among some players, even those who only see it as a short-term fiz, McDonnell said.
“The players are realizing that by going over to Europe and the Middle East that sure, you’re getting paid but there’s a lot of risk,” said McDonnell, a former financial analyst at Madison Square Garden. “You want to be close to home just in case anything breaks, that’s the main draw. There’s fear and apprehension going abroad.”
How ticket brokers would take to a much more extended philanthropic effort by the players is one of the trickier unknowns as ticket outlets prepare for the cancelation of more games. Brokers such as StubHub, though prepared for the likelihood of the lockout, are challenged by the current lack of inventory for the charity exhibitions, said Joellen Ferrer, public relations manager for StubHub.
“We have seen some activity on the site for the charity games, but given the situation with those games, there’s sure not much of a resell market for those games,” she told CBS.
Part of the challenge ticket brokers are faced with centers on the smaller facilities that are handling the charity exhibitions since NBA arenas, usually the best suited facilities for basketball games of this magnitude. Though if more charity games were to be added as a result of a labor agreement not being reached, then the increase in exhibitions could be fruitful for ticket outlets as the increased value of charity game tickets coupled with the smaller venues could certainly add a new wrinkle to the non-NBA marketplace, Ferrer said.
But with the exhibitions has come the question of the operations of them as well as the one-time jobs that come with working such a high-profile event. To this point, there isn’t a clear-cut strategy in regard to who will benefit from job opportunities stemming from one-off events. In Memphis, full- and part-time employees of Hoops LP, the Grizzlies’ parent company, were banned from working or attending Grizzlies star Rudy Gay’s recent charity basketball exhibition this week in nearby Southaven, Miss. This was not the case at Kevin Durant’s charity game last month in Oklahoma City, Okla., where staff members at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s home arena, were allowed to work the game.
“As you may be aware, this coming Tuesday, Nov. 8 there will be a charity basketball game played at the Desoto Civic Center,” said Greg Campbell, president of business operations for the Grizzlies, in a release. “Please note that all active employees for Hoops, LP, both full-time and part-time, are not permitted to attend this game.”
Figuring out the operations from these games will probably be a case-by-case process depending on the local unions involved, but these charity showcases could provide an opportunity for arena workers to pull in some income for a night. In the long run, however, the exhibitions are not going to keep workers afloat, McDonnell said.
“It’s a nice one-off for them, but they want to [the players] to get back to the NBA games, so the men and women who tireless work doing the thankless jobs can get back to having regular paychecks.”
Right now, the exhibitions are seen as being fun, but concern of whether fans will tire and grow frustrated over the billionaires versus millionaires fight in the current labor negotiations could pose a problem, even if the outing is a charitable one. Ted Hart, a charity expert and the CEO for both P2PFundraising and GreenNonprofits.org, said the issues would be separate ones that wouldn’t overlap, saying the economic value of the charity games provides a valuable alternative for there being no games, especially during the upcoming holiday season.
“I really applaud those who want to play and watch a game that creates a solution of a lack of a season by turning it into a charitable effort,” Hart said. “It turns what could be disappointment with the negotiation into something charitable. It is very laudable to the players who want to play and the fans who want to watch.”