David Stern had a dream, one world, united under hoop….
Think of it! Teams in London, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Moscow, Berlin, Belgrade, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong! A global championship like soccer's, drawing billions of fans, raising the game beyond the provincial NFL with its domestic little road to the Super Bowl!
I’m not kidding, the international push Stern has long envisioned isn't just a dream no more with a growing possibility of NBA stars migrating overseas to work.
Unfortunatelty for Stern and the NBA, it just wouldn’t have anything to do with them.
All it will take is a few more months of hard-line idiocy.
OK, I’m kidding. Wrong as I was about the participants’ rationality, I continue to believe in them. Or, put another way, I don’t think they’re that nuts.
Of course, after weeks of snits, deadlocks, ultimatums and anti-trust filings, fighting over 2 percent of revenue they could just split 1-1, how hard is it to imagine:
1) Owners, who now sneer privately at the players’ legal strategy, withdraw their offer, go back to 47 percent, rollbacks of existing contracts, etcetera, as Stern promised.
2) Players don’t cave, as owners said they would.
Not only have players given no sign of splintering, the only pressure on Billy Hunter came from the militants, who are now in control with the union supposedly out of business.
3) Both sides dig in, right to the January 5-10 drop-dead date, as in 1998-99.
Believe this, if they don’t turn this around in 10-14 days, that’s exactly where they’re headed.
4) Unlike 1999, when an 11th-hour deal saved the season after Stern decided to cancel it, they don't luck out and there goes the 2011-12 season.
In 1999, peacemakers Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Jayson Williams threw off the warlike David Falk clients running the union.
In 2011, the owners, not the players, are the insurgents and every time one of Stern’s guys hints he’d like peace, David bangs him $500,000.
5) The NBA institutes its own rules for the 2012-13 season, as owners promised to do, if it came to that.
6) Rather than knuckle under, NBA stars express their outrage by heading overseas.
This time foreign opportunities abound with the likelihood that the player will stay all season, or longer, unlike the present situation with foreign teams offered the chance to rent a Gringo for a few weeks.
With, say, Kobe Bryant in Rome with part-ownership of the team, and LeBron James in Paris, previously frozen-out U.S. networks like Fox, NBC and CBS go nuts, bidding for TV rights!
The game is back, it’s just not back here!
On the bright side for the NBA, maybe the two leagues can meet in the World Finals!
No, I don’t think it will happen but David Stern has his dreams and I have mine.
Follow Mark Heisler on Twitter at @MarkHeisler