The 2011 NBA Lockout lasted 160 days, beginning on July 1, 2011 and ending on December 8, 2011. The lockout cost the league 240 total games (16 per team), and ended when the owners and players ratified a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement that included major changes to the split of revenue between the sides and the salary cap system. This was the third major work stoppage in NBA history, and the second one that resulted in the cancellation of regular-season games.
The National Basketball Players Association was formed in 1954, when Celtics guard Bob Cousy began to organize the players in an effort to implement a minimum salary and give players health and retirement benefits in addition to gaining better overall working conditions. The league's owners didn't acknowledge the union as a bargaining organization until 1957, when many minimum work standards were finally agreed upon.
The union gained strength at the 1964 All-Star Game, when the players threatened a walkout if their demands for a pension plan were not met. Minutes before the game, NBA President Walter Kennedy guaranteed that the owners would adopt a pension plan at their next meeting. Three years later, the players threatened a strike in the playoffs, before the owners agreed to their demands, which included an 82-game limit on the regular season, medical and insurance benefits, increased minimum salaries, and the elimination of exhibition games immediately before the All-Star Game.
The formation of the rival ABA led to more conflict between players and owners. A lawsuit led by NBPA President Oscar Robertson sought to introduce free agency by ending the "option clause" that bound players to teams in perpetuity. Eventually the lawsuit was dismissed when the union and owners agreed to a new CBA that ended the option clause.
In 1983, the league and the union came to an historic collective bargaining agreement that implemented a leaguewide salary cap, guaranteeing players between 53 and 57 percent of the league's gross revenues from ticket sales and local and national TV and radio broadcasts as well as preseason and postseason revenue. The agreement also guaranteed the league would maintain at least 253 player jobs, a key concession to the players who were concerned about financially struggling franchises possibly folding. The financial stability provided by the agreement, along with an amendment a year later to implement a leaguewide substance-abuse policy, helped launch the league to new levels of success.
In 1987, there was a signing moratorium as the owners and union brokered a new agreement. The union threatened to decertify and a group of players led by Junior Bridgeman filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league and its owners, but eventually the two sides came to an agreement that extended the salary cap, reduced the length of the draft and added more players to the league's pension plan.
In 1991, the NBPA found that ownership had been under-reporting baskeball-related income, resulting in a legal dispute that led to an increase in player salaries and pension funding. However, the fallout from that incident resulted in contentious negotiations the next time the CBA came up for renewal.
The collective bargaining agreement expired following the '93-94 season. The owners and players could not come to a new agreement, but they did agree to a no-lockout, no-strike clause that would protect the 1994-95 season, which was played under the terms of the previous agreement.
Following the end of the 1995 Finals, the owners and the union quickly came to agreement, which included a luxury tax on certain large contracts. However, some players -- including big names like Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing -- were unhappy with the agreement and led a movement to refuse to vote on it. The owners imposed a lockout on July 1, 1995.
Though some players were trying to get the union to decertify, others continued to negotiate with ownership to try to reach an agreement. Eventually, the two sides agreed to remove the luxury tax while adding a clause that owners could end the agreement after three years if player salaries exceeded 51.8 percent of basketball-related income.The players voted to accept the new agreement on Sept. 12, 1995, ending the lockout before any games were lost. The owners again locked out the players the following summer due to a disagreement over television revenue, but that lockout lasted just a few hours.
In March 1998 the owners voted to reopen the collective bargaining agreement at the conclusion of the season. The owners and players held nine in-season negotiating sessions, the last of which lasted just 30 minutes, when the union said it wouldn't listen to any proposal that included a hard cap.
The owners imposed a lockout on July 1, but the two sides didn't return to the negotiating table until more than a month later. This time it was the owners who walked away from negotiations. Later that month, hearings began on a grievance filed by the union over the payment of guaranteed contracts during the lockout.
On Sept. 24, 1998, the league announced the cancellation of 24 exhibition games and the indefinite postponement of training camp. Less than two weeks later, with no progress being made in negotiations, the league canceled the remainder of the exhibition season. On Oct. 8, 1998, the two sides met, but not enough progress was made to salvage the first two weeks of the regular season.
On Oct. 20, an arbiter ruled that the NBA did not have to pay guaranteed contracts during the lockout, but that made little impact on immediate negotiations. Both sides continued to meet through November, with the owners making a key proposal on Nov. 20. However, on Dec. 4, after an 11-hour meeting, commissioner David Stern said it was more than likely that there wouldn't be a 1998-99 season.
The league made its final proposal to the union on Dec. 27, 1998, and the union followed up with its final proposal a week later. On Jan. 6, 1999, following a secret, all-night negotiating session, Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter announced a new collective bargaining agreement one day before the league's deadline to cancel the season.
The 1999 agreement was modified in 2005, reducing the maximum length and value of player contracts, while increasing the total percentage of revenue going to the players. The league also implemented a minimum age requirement for players entering the league, which began with the 2006 NBA draft.
The 2005 agreement marked the first time since 1991 that the owners and players negotiated a collective bargaining agreement without a lockout.
More than two years before the expiration of the 2005 agreement, the NBA and players began negotiations, with the league citing financial losses by most of its teams as a need for major changes. Players countered that the league was setting records with TV and ticket revenue, and only a few teams were losing money.
Owners once again discussed the possibility of a hard salary cap, eliminating the many exceptions that existed in the NBA's salary structure (such as the "Larry Bird" exception and the midlevel exception). The league said those exceptions led to player salaries that are too high, resulting in those huge losses. The owners were looking for cost certainty out of the next collective bargaining agreement, which they wanted to put in place for the next 10 years. The players are looking to protect their percentage of the league's basketball-related income (BRI) and want a shorter agreement. They also believed the owners could solve some of their financial issues through improved revenue sharing.
The two sides held multiple meetings to attempt to put together a new collective bargaining agreement, with both sides putting proposals on the table. Little progress was made in the meetings leading up to the expiration of the previous CBA, and negotiations continued throughout the summer with almost no progress in compromise.
On August 2, the NBA filed two claims against the NBPA, charging that the union had failed to negotiate in good faith by threatening decertification. The NBA also stated that if the union decertified, then all player contracts would be voided.
In early September, the sides resumed negotiations, holding meeting sessions on back-to-back days for the first time since the lockout began. However, after a brief period of optimism, NBA players and owners emerged from a meeting on Sept. 13 indicating that no progress had been made, putting the start of the season in doubt. On Sept. 23, the league announced the postponement of training camps -- originally scheduled to open on Oct. 4 -- and the cancelation of 43 preseason games. After another series of meetings produced little progress and no deal, the NBA canceled the remainder of the preseason on Oct. 4, the day it was originally scheduled to begin.
Both sides met for a pair of extended negotiating sessions on Oct. 9 and 10, but after little progress was made, David Stern announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the regular season. On October 17, the owners and players met separately with federal mediator George Cohen, followed by three consecutive days of joint meeting with the union, owners and the mediator. However, following the third day of negotiations -- at which David Stern was absent due to the flu -- talks broke off and didn't resume until five days later.
After more than 20 hours of meetings between October 26 and 27, both sides said that progress had been made and the mood of the talks seemed to have shifted. Commissioner David Stern said that the next day, Oct. 28, would be key. The sides met for six hours, but neither side would move off its proposed split of the BRI -- the players at 52%, the owners at 50% -- and talks again broke off.
Eight days later, the two sides met again, and following that meeting, commissioner David Stern gave the players' side until close of business on Nov. 9 to accept the deal or see it get worse. The day before that deadline, the players representatives met to discuss their options, and a joint meeting between the two sides was set for the next day. On the scheduled deadline day, key members of leadership from both sides met for 12 hours, and while little progress was made, another meeting was scheduled and no additional games were canceled at the time.
At that meeting, the NBA presented a revised offer to the union, and said that if the players accepted the offer, a 72-game season could begin on December 15th. The union scheduled a players' meeting in New York for Nov. 14 to make a decision on the revised proposal. They chose to reject the proposal and disclaim the union as a representative entity, beginning the process of litigation against the league.
However, before the case could play out in the courts, the league and the players came to a tentative agreement in the early morning on Nov. 26, following a 15-hour bargaining session. The final points of the deal were hammered out over the next two weeks, and officially ratified on Dec. 8, 2011.
Players, owners ratify new deal
Owners and players ratified a new collective bargaining agreement Thursday, the final step to ending the five-month lockout and paving the way for training camps and free agency to open Friday. Story »
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