Can the NBA work without stadiums?

If so, the league’s billionaires just lost immense leverage.

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Adam Silver says the league’s revenues are “effectively zero.” The way NBA economics work, players—even players like Chris Paul, who is due to make more than $40 million next season—have to be nervous.

Even without a pandemic, NBA players are paid in a sort of confusing way. You can google any player’s income—but they are not guaranteed that. Instead, they are paid proportionate amounts of a percentage of “basketball-related income.” Players with bigger contracts get bigger slices of that “basketball-related income” pie. If the league has a down year, players feel the pinch—although they have some protection: There’s some money set aside in escrow to protect them from big swings. So it’s like a swimming pool of money, with a hot tub attached to the side. 

It has all been leaking, though, and subject to normal evaporation. Remember, revenues were down hundreds of millions in lost revenue from China before the pandemic. Now the hose they use to refill the pool has stopped f…

This post is for paying subscribers