National Columnist

Worry about NBA lockout? Nope, there's no hoops crisis


Wake me when the lockout ends, would you? Or I could just set an alarm clock -- let's say, two weeks before the 2011-12 opener -- and get up on my own. Make like Ichabod Crane and saw some logs while everyone else is building this lockout into the cataclysm it is not.

I know, I know. That's not what you're hearing. What you're hearing is that this could be the end of the NBA as we know it. You're hearing the 2011-12 season is in danger -- grave danger, because as Jack Nicholson told us in A Few Good Men, there is no other kind.

That's what I'm hearing, too, but I don't believe it for the same reason I don't believe a car salesman when I walk onto his lot, looking for a car:

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Because he's lying.

Because this is a negotiation.

NBA owners say they would lose less money by skipping the 2011-12 season than by playing it. NBA players say they'll go overseas. And you believe them? Did you learn nothing from the NFL lockout?

The world was falling so hard on the 2011 NFL season, owners and players preparing us for the worst, that everyone was ducking for cover. I dove under the nearest desk and found myself in a fetal position next to Chicken Little, who told us in February 2010 that the NFL lockout was going to be a bad one, maybe the worst ever. He told us, "The [NFL] and its players appear headed for one of those 1980s-style showdowns, one that threatens to either shut down part of the 2011 season or put those dreaded replacement teams on the field."

Chicken Little has a name, and it's Michael Wilbon. Smart guy? Exceptionally. Reasonable? One of the most reasonable people in the sports media. So please don't read this as a takedown of Michael Wilbon, because it's not. This is a takedown of the entire notion that the NBA lockout is The Big One, because we were just there with the NFL -- and what do you know? The NFL season is in full swing. On time and everything.

So now we move onto the NBA lockout, and here's what Chicken Little -- same guy, Michael Wilbon -- wrote last month:

The NFL ought to be embarrassed to call its little labor dispute a lockout. ... The NBA, on the other hand, is about to show the NFL how to conduct a truly contentious labor war and stage a lockout likely to do real damage in terms of dollars, goodwill and reputation. The NFL was never going to miss anything meaningful. The NBA might miss the entire 2011-12 season.

Wait, what? Same guy who said the NFL was headed for some scab games is now saying the NFL was never headed for scab games. But the NBA? The NBA's lockout is serious!


And again, please, nothing but admiration here for Wilbon as a media person. His career against mine? Blowout. He's Georgia Tech and I'm Cumberland College. But he represents media folks everywhere, crying wolf then about the NFL lockout and crying wolf now about the NBA lockout. A football writer from The Sporting News last week celebrated the NFL's win by predicting an NBA loss: "Unlike the NBA, which may miss an entire season, the NFL can look forward to many uninterrupted seasons."

Chicken Little is just a big balloon in a parade -- what does he know about the NBA lockout? (Getty Images)  
Chicken Little is just a big balloon in a parade -- what does he know about the NBA lockout? (Getty Images)  
The same day, a basketball writer from Yahoo noted that multiple NBA owners are "willing to sit out the season."

It's not like my website has been immune to it. For months our NFL writers were freaking about the NFL's labor showdown, and last week NBA expert Ken Berger masterfully freaked out about the NBA's issues.

Meh. I'll believe it when I see it, though I'll admit there's a chance the NBA lockout could make a mess of the 2011-12 season. The NFL, the NHL and even the NBA all have lost games to labor strife in the past two decades.

It does happen -- but when it does, it's the exception that proves the rule. The rule being, owners and players have way too much at stake to risk it by writing off even a small part of a regular season. And as the economy stays down, houses sit empty and people stay unemployed, our tolerance level goes down, too. Would we put up with an NBA season that started in January and tried to play a 50-game schedule, as it did in 1999? Not sure we would. Those season-ticket renewals would hit our mailboxes and inboxes like a bad joke. Right into the shredder they would go, for lots of us.

The NBA, after years of going along and getting along, saw real growth this past season. Fans were energized by the Miami Heat, happily or angrily. Passion is good, and fans had passion about the Heat, and about the rest of the league. And the league will let that momentum crash into a wall? I don't see it.

So I'm ignoring the nonsense coming out of everyone's mouth. The owners. The union. The media. This is the NFL lockout all over again. It's the debt ceiling crisis. Give a deadline to important people with that much on the line, and they'll meet it. Along the way they'll whine and they'll moan, and they'll procrastinate until the last minute. But like my 15-year-old son does with his biggest homework projects, they'll stay up late when it counts and get it done. Because the alternative is unacceptable.

As for you, believe what you want. But if you pay sticker price for this lockout apocalypse, you're a sucker.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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