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Why Trade Demands Are Good for the NBA

Trading players like commodities remind sports fans that professional leagues are different from any other business.


In case there was any doubt about who runs the NBA after the protracted lockout and all of its fraught power struggles, DeMarcus Cousins kindly cleared it up for us last week.

Cousins, a talented but flawed big man for the lowly Sacramento Kings, either did or did not demand a trade sometime around New Year’s. Head coach Paul Westphal thought he did, anyway, so he ordered his best player to stay home while the team traveled to a game in New Orleans. Within four days, Westphal had been fired and Cousins was back in the starting lineup.

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We're Getting Basketball for Christmas—But at What Cost?

But in the midst of celebrating basketball’s unexpected return, it’s worth remembering what got us into this mess, and who got us out.


For basketball fans, this holiday season is off to a good start. We already know what we’re unwrapping on Christmas morning: a shiny, new NBA season.

It seems nearly unbelievable that this lockout—the second longest in NBA history—has almost officially ended. Basketball observers had come to grips with the seeming inevitability that we wouldn’t see NBA games until late 2012 at the earliest. It looked as though talks had broken down for the last time two weeks ago, when the players said they would get the federal court system involved. And then, out of nowhere in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving weekend, it was over. By Saturday morning, pundits were ranking the free agent market and speculating about Greg Oden’s health just like old times.

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To End the NBA Lockout, David Stern Must Shut His Mouth

There are legitimate disagreements at work here, but that doesn't justify Stern's condescension toward the men who are ostensibly his colleagues.


David Stern presenting the championship trophy to the Dallas Mavericks in happier times

Greedy bosses want to cut employees' pay. The union tries to fight back. So the CEO, a longtime bully to organized labor, pats the workers on their heads with an admonition: You can't possibly understand such complex negotiations. Let the grownups decide what's best for you.

If this were Walmart, we'd all be outraged, but not when it's millionaires fighting against billionaires in the NBA. Yet the paternalism is no less ugly because of the amount of money involved. And it gets uglier when you consider the racial undertones that necessarily lurk in an industry where every owner but one is white and 83 percent of the workers are black [PDF]. Lately, those tensions have been bubbling to the surface—most egregiously in the acidic condescension of Commissioner David Stern.

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