(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
The NBA lockout has entered day 113.
Articles on Yahoo! Sports, NBA.com, and all over the rest of the online sports blogosphere having been talking about how the longer the lockout goes on, the more fans the NBA risks losing.
I think this is completely untrue… to a certain degree.
Yes, I believe that most fans are upset and some even disgusted at the current lockout, but there’s a hidden factor behind the threat of losing a season.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has already cancelled the entire preseason, and the first two weeks of the regular season, but just because fans are not going to be able to watch a couple week’s worth of games in November doesn’t mean that they’re going to jump ship and start watching odd sports like cricket, handball, or the NHL.
If this cancellation has done anything, it’s made true fans even hungrier to see their favourite teams and players in action.
I know that after the 1994 MLB strike, the 1999 NBA lockout, and the 2005 NHL lockout that each league lost an enormous amount of revenue and television viewership, but I could care less if those work stoppages pissed off casual fans. Die-hards were, and are, still watching. And when the NBA eventually returns, whenever that may be, the people who have attended games and turned on their television sets for years will continue to do so.
Back in 1998, when the NBA collective bargaining agreement dispute shortened the upcoming season to 50 games, it was reported that attendance and TV ratings had dropped dramatically. But look at the outside factors that contributed more to those numbers than a shortened season ever could. Michael Jordan retired in 1998, the San Antonio Spurs won the championship the following season, and the first pick in the 1999 draft was Michael Olowokandi. The fact that fans had to wait over three months for the NBA to get its shit together was minor compared to the mind-numbingly boring season that ensued.
The difference with the current lockout is that the league is not losing Kevin Durant or LeBron James or any of its best players. The Cavaliers drafted Duke phenom Kyrie Irving number one overall (and I don’t think anyone’s predicting him to end up like Olowokandi).
I think that whatever happens with this lockout, whether the NBA only has to cancel two week’s worth of games or an entire season, that the hoop faithful will still embrace the game with what the players hope are open arms, and what the league hopes are open wallets.