How Bad Will the NBA Lockout Be?

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Will a delayed basketball season turn fans away from the sport—or will a hiatus be a good thing?

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Jake Simpson, (writer, The Atlantic), and Emma Carmichael (writer, Deadspin) talk about this year's delayed NBA season.


Hey, guys,

The NBA players and owners met behind locked doors in New York City this week, and after four hours of negotiations, they emerged to announce that, against all odds, the 2011 NBA season would ... not begin on schedule. There weren't any relieved hugs; there were no rainbows or golden retriever puppies. There was just a somber letter from the Players Association and a terse David Stern: "It wasn't to be."

So far, all we're definitely missing out on is the preseason—114 exhibition games in total—which is only ever a part of the season that attracts diehards and those seeking discount tickets, anyway. (Stern told reporters that those games alone will cost the league $200 million.) After that, there's no reason to feel overly confident about the league starting on time. Quoth Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, on when the two sides will even attempt another meeting: "Maybe a month. Two months. Your guess is as good as mine."

I'm tucking in for a long winter full of college hoops. It will be good for us, right? Back to the refreshing fundamentals in the broken system of college hoops. But I'm curious what you guys think will be the long-term effects of a lost 2011-12 NBA season. Jake and I were discussing this earlier: the NHL might not have fully recovered from its '04-'05 strike even today, and the MLB needed a few seasons to rally after the '94 strike. The NBA is coming off of one of its most successful postseasons in league history, and (even though Jeff Van Gundy might disagree) it could take some time for pro hoops to get back to the level of popularity it had finally achieved. That is, unless LeBron James announces he's starting his own team in Hawaii, or something.

Hampton, how do you foresee the lockout affecting the NBA's appeal? If we're back in time for the playoffs, maybe, as Van Gundy hinted, no one will really notice. But it's hard to imagine that a sacrificed season won't harm the league. What do you think?

–Emma

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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