NEW YORK — The NBA’s thrilling season came with a high price tag.
LeBron’s move to Miami and Dirk’s title in Dallas couldn’t hide a simple fact: Owners insisted they were losing money, perhaps $300 million this season, and weren’t interested in subsidizing a system they felt guaranteed they’d keep losing more.
So the NBA locked out its players, a long-expected move that put the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and came as the NFL is trying to end its own work stoppage that began in March.
The latest lockout began at 12:01 EDT Friday. It will last until player and owners can agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, one owners demand must give all teams a chance to profit.
“We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn’t a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn’t one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in,” Commissioner David Stern said. “The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete.”
Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday and a final proposal from the players – which NBA leaders said would have raised average player salaries to $7 million in the sixth year of the deal – the sides could not close the enormous gulf between their positions.
“The problem is that there’s such a gap in terms of the numbers, where they are and where we are, and we just can’t find any way to bridge that gap,” union chief Billy Hunter said.
All league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened Friday. The NBA’s summer league in Las Vegas already has been canceled, preseason games in Europe were never scheduled, and players might have to decide if they want to risk playing in this summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments without the NBA’s help in securing insurance in case of injury.