There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the NBA lockout, and maybe that’s something the league’s owners and players should really be thinking about during their talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.
But the recently retired Shaquille O’Neal just spoke, and he says if you’re looking for a reason why the league is having significant financial issues, you can start with the Hawks’ Joe Johnson.
O’Neal told the New Orleans Times Picayune that Johnson’s six-year, $119 million contract is a an example of a franchise overpaying for a player despite lacking the revenue to pay the contract. Shaq completely left out the fact that Johnson too often is a no-show in the playoffs, but maybe he didn’t want to be too tough in his early days as a commentator.
The money quote from Shaq: “I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy. Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.”
So now in addition to being called out by fans and media, the Hawks — or at least their outgoing owners, the Atlanta Spirit — have been called out by a Hall of Fame player.
O’Neal is exactly right. Most financial problems in sports leagues are created not by greedy players but by owners who can’t control themselves. The problem the NBA has now is that players have had it so good for so long, with crazy dollars and six- or seven-year contracts, that it’s going to be difficult for owners to impose a new CBA on them that dials it way back.
O’Neal said he still believes there will be an NBA season but it won’t likely start on time. So there will be plenty of off days between now and then if Joe and Shaq want to hang out.
By Jeff Schultz