Who deserves blame for NBA lockout?

5-on-5: Debating the five most culpable parties for shabby state of labor negotiations

Updated: November 16, 2011, 12:55 PM ET
ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

NBPA, NBA repsGetty ImagesNeither side of the NBA's collective bargaining table gets off the hook too easily in our Blame Game.

There are a lot of hurt and angry feelings after the latest NBA lockout setback. And that's before you consider the fans, who have filled the social media airwaves the past two days. (As you can imagine, there weren't a lot of nice things said about those involved.)

We hear you.

There's plenty of blame to go around these days. So we've asked our panelists -- including fans, based on the responses we received in the @NBAonESPN Twitter account Tuesday night -- to determine which parties involved have the most red ink on their hands.

Let's play the Blame Game!

1. Who is fifth-most to blame for the failure to agree on a new CBA?


Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: The Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony. Let me start by saying that I fully support a player's right to decide where he wants to work. But the Heat's formation in the summer of 2010 and Anthony's forced trade to New York last season proved that the players had taken control of the league, and left the owners looking weak. Those perceptions are what's driving the NBA's urge to break the players in this negotiation.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: The economy. Whether you think the owners were affected by it or not, the economy gave this thing its start. With so many losses, owners wanted to make up ground by crushing the players. Players, recognizing the situation, foolishly gave reasonable consideration to the situation in terms of surrendering ground to the owners. The seeds of this were planted in the recession.

Brian Robb, CelticsHub: The agents. Any time you have individuals more interested in the ability to make the most money long term, rather than protecting the limited time frame of their clients' earning power, you have to wonder about their intentions. Agents have had the ears of their clients during these CBA negotiations and may have influenced the players to their own peril.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Angelo Mozilo, Tim Geithner, Bill Clinton, Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, Hank Paulson, Alan Greenspan, the American public and everyone else whose actions helped tank the economy in 2008. If these owners hadn't lost their shirts, they would be much less militant about squeezing a couple hundred million dollars out of investments most people in their positions once considered toys.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Dan Jordan. Or should it be Michael Gilbert? Unintentionally or otherwise, Cleveland's Dan Gilbert and Charlotte's Michael Jordan have been christened as the faces of the hard-line owners who have pushed these labor negotiations to the brink of total destruction. Only those in the room know the truth about what's gone on behind closed doors. But in the court of public opinion, Jordan and Gilbert certainly have been tried and convicted for their roles in this.


VOICE OF THE FAN: Fans/consumers (0.4%)

@n8olsen: I blame myself. Despite my raging adamance to shun the NBA forever, the deshun is inevitable. Fans like me make a lockout possible.


2. Who is fourth-most to blame for the failure to agree on a new CBA?


Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: If you signed any of the following to his current contract: Travis Outlaw, Amir Johnson, Joe Johnson, Al Harrington, Joel Anthony, Troy Murphy, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert, Darko Milicic, DeSagana Diop and, of course, Eddy Curry. You caused this mess, and now you want the system to fix your mistakes.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: David Stern. Stern is painted as the malevolent dictator, but in reality he's simply lost control of his owners. It's his duty to watch over the league and see to its best interests. Allowing this cadre of hard-line owners to join the league and push his influence to the margins is a black mark on his legacy.

Brian Robb, CelticsHub: Jeffrey Kessler. Any time you throw around venomous language in a contentious public negotiation, you run the risk of irreparable harm. That may have been exactly what Kessler did with his "plantation workers" comments last week. An apology was issued, but the toxic talk likely helped lead us to the standstill the sides are at now.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Etan Thomas, Marko Jaric, Dan Gadzuric, DeSagana Diop and all the other middling veterans who have made quadruple what they're worth while bringing nearly no production or marketability to their franchises. They're multimillionaires but no one wants to see these guys play -- except the bona fide players on the other side of the ball who steal their lunch money every night.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Carmelo James. Or does it sound better as LeBron Anthony? Either way you slice it, the way LeBron and Carmelo went about their transition business recently has certainly added to the angst and bitterness that is at the core of disagreement on "system" issues. Make no mistake, we'd probably still be here regardless of where James and Anthony ended up. But it would be naive and foolish to believe that the way they abandoned the teams that drafted and groomed them didn't inspire demands for tighter restrictions on player movement.


VOICE OF THE FAN: David Stern (1%)

@KD12003: David Stern. For so long he has behaved as if he were a god. He forgot that things don't have to go his way at all time.


3. Who is third-most to blame for the failure to agree on a new CBA?


Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: Small-market hawks. Desperate to get a deal that ensures them profitability, these owners attempted to force the players' association's hand and hold up negotiations with ridiculous cutbacks. The players are never going to agree to a 47 percent split of basketball related income (BRI), and everyone knows that. If these guys can't make a profit at 50 percent ... well, Michael already knows what they should do.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Billy Hunter. Players left out of the loop. Weak and outdated communication strategies. A disclaimer maneuver that the agents pushing decertification did not approve of. Knowing Stern's position and still watching him railroad the players day after day. Hunter failed his charge and his position.

Brian Robb, CelticsHub: Hard-line owners. These are the folks who needed sweeping changes in the NBA the most, to help ensure themselves of a chance to compete and make money in the future. By failing to give in on some reasonable issues after an unprecedented giveback by the players in negotiations, however, it's apparent greed remains as their ultimate intention.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Hard-line owners. They know they can't compete, financially or on the court, under the current system. And even though most were acutely aware of this when they bought into the league, they now want to change the rules. And if they can't, they're taking their ball and heading home. It's probably the same move most of them not named MJ pulled when they were 10-year-olds.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: The power agents. By now, we all know which ones they are. And those agents certainly have made their presence felt behind the scenes by either undercutting the union's leadership with their constant push for decertification or by giving commissioner David Stern more ammo in a mission to divide and conquer. There are plenty of sharks in these murky waters. And the power agents have had just as big a hand in rocking this boat as the primary participants.


VOICE OF THE FAN: Owners (18%)

@thegreatIgnarus: 100% owners. Too greedy. Had checkmate in July, decided to take all the pieces and wound up with a stalemate. Baseball MJ > Owner MJ.


4. Who is second-most to blame for the failure to agree on a new CBA?


Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: The NBPA. Let's even put aside the terrible communication between players and reps this past week in the face of the NBA's latest offer. Filing a disclaimer of interest now comes off as a negotiating tactic, rather than a real threat. If the artist formerly known as the NBPA really wanted to scare the league, decertification paperwork should've been completed on July 1. But to file a DOI now only prolongs the inevitable, ensuring that everyone loses.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Hard-line owners. Their intractable, all-consuming maw of greed and brutality has put the season on the brink. They may not be legally bargaining in bad faith, but by any objective observer's definition they are.

Brian Robb, CelticsHub: Billy Hunter. The owners may not have been negotiating in good faith, but Hunter has publicly admitted several times that he saw this kind of tactic coming from them. So why did he wait so long to dissolve the union, the timing of which jeopardizes the current season (and its paychecks) for the players more than ever?

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: David Stern. He has spent three decades molding an association of businessmen -- who enjoyed basketball enough to spend a few bucks on a team -- into a collective that, more than loving sport, covets the notion that they can convert this league into 30 ATMs. No one else, save perhaps Juwan Howard, has been here that long. This is on the commish.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Billy Hunter/players. Technically, the ball was in the players' hands when the buzzer sounded Monday, and our hopes shifted from getting the game back on the court to the dispute tumbling into federal court. The players repeatedly remind folks that they're the ones being locked out. But at this point, it doesn't matter. They held the key that would have unlocked the arena doors to a 72-game season that was set to start Dec. 15. Instead, they declined and filed suit.


VOICE OF THE FAN: Players (25%)

@sdlessman: I blame players for being too prideful. Pride comes before a fall, and their reputation, finances, and careers are plummeting.


5. Who is most to blame for the failure to agree on a new CBA?


Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching: David Stern. Pick your favorite: the phony deadline, the nonstop spin, that awful Twitter interview that only succeeded at rehashing tired talking points, and the portraying of players -- his company's product -- as uncooperative and selfish. Stern is the leader who, at the very best, laid an unreasonable deal on the table, and at the very worst, did not negotiate in good faith. The onus is on everyone, but no one more than Mr. Stern.

Matt Moore, Hardwood Paroxysm: Everyone. This was a failure on both sides. The owners put the players in an impossible position, but the players made it worse for themselves and the fans by continuously bungling their decision-making and plan execution. No one wins, everyone loses.

Brian Robb, CelticsHub: David Stern. The commissioner has now presided over multiple lockouts during his reign atop the NBA, a serious blemish for his résumé. The latest, coming during a time of heightened interest in the league, will do lasting damage to the Association. While there is plenty of blame to be thrown around on both sides, the guy atop the pyramid deserves the most.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: The Dutch East India Company? I don't know. Whoever invented capitalism. The men who control the NBA see a chance to make this league into a very profitable business for decades to come. And they're taking it. Frankly, with stakes so low -- 'tis only a game -- it's hard to call that wrong. I would likely do the same.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: David Stern/owners. The owners/bullies have had this fight won since the so-called negotiations opened. But getting their way completely on BRI wasn't enough. Pushing the players into a corner on the system issues wasn't enough. Being up 40 in the fourth quarter wasn't enough. Once it became more about threats, ultimatums, insults and humiliation, this was destined to go down a destructive path. Taking back gobs of money from the previous deal should have settled this. But trying to take the players' manhood and pride on some system issues carried things a bit too far.


VOICE OF THE FAN: Players and owners (27%)

@JeffMarker: Both! I work in live events. I work with unions. I have negotiated contracts. Never did we allow negotiation affect the event.


Others receiving more than one fan vote: Greed (0.3%); Billy Hunter and David Stern (0.2%); Billy Hunter (0.2%); the United States/capitalism (0.2%); LeBron James (0.2%).