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Basketball in court

Photo by Reuters
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Basketball is pretty much the only sport "invented" in America that has easily crossed international borders.
Unlike Gridiron, the US version of football, and baseball, the game is played the world over.
But now, here in the US, professional basketball players have announced a surprise play.

At a meeting in New York they rejected the latest pay offer from their league, the National Basketball Association (NBA), and they're saying, "See you in a law court guys."

The National Basketball Players' Association is also winding-up its own union.
The decision throws into doubt the entire 2011/2012 basketball season.

Derek Fisher is a former NBA star who is now president of the association of NBA players (NBPA):

"After two years of making a genuine and concerted effort to try and close a collective bargaining agreement with our teams and with the league we've come to the conclusion today that that process has not worked for us."

The players bold move to disband the union and sue the employers means the current basketball season seems very unlikely to go ahead.

The NBA long ago cancelled games through to December 15, and league Commissioner David Stern is calling the decision to reject the latest deal a tragedy. He says the threat to sue the NBA is a tactic that won't work.

Grant Wahl, is a journalist for Sports Illustrated magazine. He told Al Jazeera English that a 50-50 split between the employers and the players was on the table over 72 games starting in December, but the players objected to what they saw as too many restrictions on their earning power under the terms of the deal.

"These players only have a certain amount of time in the league and they would like to be earning money right now ... it's a possibility that David Stern and the NBA owners could decide to void contracts and then it could be a complete free for all."
The NBA says last season wasn't profitable enough for most of the league's thirty owners. All but the top clubs are so-called "loss leaders" for their owners, giving them a sense of pride but little in the way of hard cash.

In a sports bar in Washington DC, just a basketball's throw from the White House, fans had mixed reactions.

Robbie Zabel: "Neither side has really handled themselves particularly well throughout the whole process so I'm not really that surprised"

Amrut Pati: "The last few years have been some of the best seasons in NBA I mean the NBA is back to where it was really competitive again and now its ... you know they have the lockout it kind of freezes up the momentum and the game"

Dennis Broderick: "All I've got to say is when's baseball season start? - who cares about basketball"
True die-hard fans do!

Now though, apart from friendly exhibition games, they may have to wait until the 2012 Olympics in London before they get to see their favourite big-time players on court - rather than in court - again.

David Stern
National Basketball Association

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