No NBA games, but we're still paying

The lights are out at American Airlines Center in Dallas on what would have been opening night of the 2011-12 NBA season. Instead of watching the Mavericks receive oversized championship rings, NBA fans -- in Texas and around the world -- are sitting at home with an oversized feeling of emptiness caused by the lockout.

Fans yearn for the sound of sneakers squeaking on the hardwood, for the superstitious antics of players at the free throw line and for giants seemingly defying gravity as they soar. Now, there is nothing but silence.

If the lockout doesn't end, there will be no NBA playoffs. Players will find jobs overseas, and we'll have to tune into the BBC to watch Deron Williams drive to the basket.

If the players and owners reach an agreement soon, the playoffs likely will feature uncompetitive games with poorly conditioned athletes. Who wants to watch a playoff series with guys who've been playing defense-free 135-120 charity games for six months?

For those who aren't moved by NBA greatness, the economic impact of the lockout provides a different reason to be alarmed.

Thousands of blue-collar workers, such as hotel employees, parking lot attendants, sports bar servers, arena security guards, concession workers and even team mascots face losing their jobs because of the shortened season.

In Cleveland, bars like Harry Buffalo, which is still recovering from LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers, must contemplate cutting staff because NBA games aren't being played.

"It's rough," Harry Buffalo's operations manager, John Adams, recently told The Associated Press. "I've got three single moms on my wait staff and two single dads in the kitchen. I've got their 11 children to think about. It's painful when it's out of my control, when I have to put the business first and say I can't have 15 servers on staff because we don't have the business."

On a larger scale, entire cities are also set to suffer. Oklahoma City, which acquired its first NBA team, the Thunder, three years ago, will lose an estimated $1.28 million indirect spending per canceled game, according to the city manager's office. The city of Memphis is taking it a step further by exploring the option of suing the NBA over lost revenue. If the season is canceled, Memphis taxpayers could be on the hook for $18 million in payments on the bonds used to finance the team's arena.

NBA players and owners may be the faces of this lockout, but millions of lost dollars and miserable fans tell another story of thousands of people affected by the lockout. We should all hope the NBA hits a clutch shot in negotiations and comes through with a win.

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