If the NBA is going to be a cartel, it should at least be the kind of awesome cartel that aims to support all fans -- not just the lucky ones rooting for teams under benevolent billionaires
The NBA is locked out over how to divide money between players and owners. Malcolm Gladwell has advice for the guys in the suits: Give up the act. Basketball isn't a business.
It's certainly not a typical business. The bosses are each worth more than $100 million. They organize like a cartel. The key employees, most in their mid-20, often make seven figures a year. They are "owned" to a degree that would make a junior accountant cry "indentured servitude." Labor mobility is determined by talent drafts, ironclad contracts, and abrupt trades. The customers are minimally price-sensitive.
With all that in mind, Gladwell suggests we chuck Microeconomics 101 out the window. He says owning a basketball team should be like owning a painting: Something rich people do for both the money and the psychic benefits.
"The big difference between art and sports, of course, is that art collectors are honest about psychic benefits," he writes. "They do not wake up one day, pretend that looking at a Van Gogh leaves them cold, and demand a $27 million refund from their art dealer. But that is exactly what the NBA owners are doing."