Shawn Marion of the Dallas Mavericks made some comments about how the NBA should get rid of its salary cap. His justification was that baseball does it and it’s just fine, so why not the NBA?
I don’t know nearly enough about the NBA to say whether it actually could survive without a cap. Team construction and television money and a whole host of other things in basketball are mostly foreign concepts to me, so even if I am philosophically predisposed to hate salary caps, I can’t offer any insight as to how that would work — or if it should even be considered — in the NBA.
But I do know that Yahoo!’s Kelly Dwyer’s rebuttal to Marion is off base:
Dearest Shawn, “baseball does it” should never be a reason for just about anything sports-related. I love the game, but MLB has undergone decades’ worth of labor strife, strikes, salary disparities, drug woes, collusion, and out and out free market chaos. Bad ownership and front office machinations are part of the reason why, but the (decreasing, but still significant) gulf between the haves and have-nots in baseball is one of the reasons why you haven’t seen some certain teams in their ever-expanding playoff bracket for years.
Hurm. That seems odd to me. Let me grab a reference book here and see what we can see:
- LABOR: The NBA had three lockouts and/or strikes since baseball’s last work-stoppage: 2011 (161 days); 1998-99 (204 days); and 1995 (79 days);
- DRUGS: The NBA’s drug-testing system has been described as “inadequate,” “pathetic” and “a joke,” by federal lawmakers. There is no blood testing as exists in Major League Baseball and the NBA’s program is less transparent than most other leagues’ programs. It is widely assumed that marijuana use among NBA players is an everyday occurrence.
- SALARY DISPARITY: Baseball’s highest-paid player is Clayton Kershaw, who will make $30,714,286 in 2014. The NBA’s highest-paid player is Kobe Bryant, who will make $30,453,805. Baseball’s minimum salary is $500,000. The NBA’s minimum salary is $490,180. Clearly the salary disparity is chasm-like in baseball compared to the NBA.
- COLLUSION: Baseball’s history here is shameful, but collusion on a large scale ended nearly 25 years ago and resulted in a massive settlement paid by owners to players as punishment. NBA Collusion may be more piecemeal, but it is reportedly pervasive. And no one really cares.
- BAD FRONT OFFICES/OWNERSHIP: I tried to call my NBA-fan friends in Seattle for their insight, but they all committed suicide. My other NBA fan friends were too busy discussing the merits of tanking for draft picks to return my calls.
- GULF BETWEEN HAVES/HAVE-NOTS: Nine NBA franchises have won titles in the past 34 years. Obviously basketball is a different sport than baseball and it’s much harder to create parity when a comparitively small number of players can determine an outcome, but Jesus tapdancin’ Christ, NINE TEAMS IN 34 YEARS.
Baseball is obviously not perfect. It has a load of problems, the sorts of which we talk about here everyday. And as I said, getting rid of the salary cap may be bad news for the NBA. Multiple teams were close to freakin’ folding before the cap was instituted with the 1983 labor agreement and the nature of the sport, its business model and competitive landscape is so thoroughly informed by salary cap concerns that scrapping it could disrupt everything in ways Shawn Marion hasn’t considered.
But I do know that putting the NBA and Major League Baseball together for purposes of an apples-to-apples comparison doesn’t tell us much. And, to be honest, doesn’t exactly put the NBA in the best light. So here’s an idea: let’s assess the respective leagues and sports on their own terms rather than engage in such unintentionally illuminating exercises as the one being attempted here, OK?