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Monday, November 28, 2011
Lessons from the painful NBA lockout

By Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com

So did we learn anything from the NBA lockout?

Kid in NBA Cares
NBA owners and players care about themselves. The fans come third.

We learned that the winter will not be so nuclear. We learned that the NBA needs to contract rather than add teams. We learned that "B-list" issues were really "A-list" concerns. We learned that Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin will never see LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire money.

We learned that the "I Love This Game" creed the League has held sacred and marketed to us as a true representation of its brand is hollow. On both sides. Meaning that although players were justified in standing firm on their beliefs and the owners were just as justified in wanting to make changes to a system that was no longer favorable or profitable for many of them, "the game" itself was the furthest thing from their minds every time they sat down in front of each other to negotiate.

It wasn't that neither side cared about the game, but both acted as if the game was at the bottom of their priority lists.

We learned things we didn't want to learn. The lockout reinforced how much more the "B" in NBA stands for business instead of basketball. It proved that "C.R.E.A.M." by the Wu-Tang Clan should be played at every game prior to the national anthem. We learned that, as Larry Coon so eloquently put it, the pending deal is "a deal neither side is happy with, but one that both sides can live with."

We learned how Bryant Gumbel really feels. We learned that no one fears David Stern anymore and his legacy as the "greatest commissioner of all sports" will be marked with an asterisk. We learned that -- despite what has been and will continually be said following the agreement being signed -- decertification is more than just a negotiating tool and owners do react when threatened by it (twice in one year; read: NFL).

Santa Claus Dunking
Santa Claus and the NBA are coming to town.

We learned that players don't all get along, don't all see eye-to-eye and don't share the same views and values when it comes to their profession. As collective as they are, they are separate. We learned that they may not necessarily be smarter than players of generations before them, but that there exists a wherewithal to challenge authority and use their power as leverage in a way that is for the most part nonexistent in professional sports.

We learned that Christmas Day is the most important day to the NBA next to the opening day of the Finals.

We learned that this will probably be Billy Hunter's last CBA as union president; that this wasn't as much about Big Market vs. Small Market as originally suggested; that it really wasn't just or all about the BRI; that the owners really can't protect themselves from themselves and will never admit it; that a CBA is only as good as the economic climate in which it exists.

So yes, we all learned a few things.

Was it worth it, though? Was the almost five months of watching billionaires fight millionaires over how a multibillion dollar pie is to be split in ways that are in the best interest of self as opposed to what is in the best interest of the game worth going through?

There's a simple answer: For the owners, "Yes." For the players, "Yes."

For the rest of us who were caught in the middle and became the lockout's collateral damage, "Hell to the No."

Thank God it'll be another six to 10 years before we have to go through it again.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

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