A speculative tweet by Ethan Sherwood Strauss had me thinking of a plausible alternative basketball league to rival the NBA during the lockout. With no obvious overseas option for most players and the owners’ siege laid the players have little leverage. The idea of a renegade league has been bandied about but with nothing of real substance offered. Let’s take a crack at it, shall we?
First, let’s take stock of the situation. For all the brand recognition of the NBA’s teams league’s modern success has been built on the individual player personalities. It almost goes without saying that our Renegade League would have the advantage over the NBA if the owners were to hire scabs. Since we have nothing else to do let’s just go ahead and ask the question: Would you rather watch a bunch of erstwhile D-Leaguers in Lakers and Celtics unis play on Christmas or Name Brand Talent play in say, MSG on the same day?
The Association vs Renegade League:
We have to decide whether or not we this thing to last more than a year or two? Is it a true breakaway league or just a negotiating tactic? I like options so let’s go with ‘B’ with expandability to ‘A’. This way we can avoid answering the dirty questions that will come when talking about sustainability.
First we have to make enough money to make it a reasonable alternative to break the lockout. To do so let’s just eliminate one of the largest costs any North American pro league faces: travel. Instead of basing teams all across the US and
Really, we could house the entire league within the friendly confines of the Apple. Just to make it fun, let’s spread them out among Boston, New York, Philly , Baltimore and D.C. Spread them out however you like, it doesn’t really matter. In the most densely populated area of the country, and with the top 230 players of the NBA playing within the region there should be no empty seats. So we should have nice gate revenue.
Sixteen teams play each other twice, home and away. Such a short season eliminates one of the oft-cited complaints about the current NBA setup: too many games. Then, we either put eight teams in a weekend tourney at MSG to crown a champion or put the top four in a regular seven-game playoff deal.
This thing would kill. All it needs is a broadcaster. Ethan is totally spot-on saying that no current or potential NBA broadcaster would want to jeopardize a future deal by showing League Renegade. So who is left? He suggests HBO. That would be awesome for the 24/7-like access but would be difficult to do all the games. We would need a pay-per-view setup or a non-league broadcaster to do it. I nominate CBS. They only do college basketball now and aren’t looking to get NBA coverage again in the near future.*
*This is probably where this whole thing breaks down. Though some network/channel will likely be interested, their ability to pay the amount of money to make the league work would be the biggest question. The RL needs a major broadcaster.