Relationship Between NBA and NBPA Essay



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National basket association (NBA) is the main United States of America basketball men’s league. The association has a total of 30 teams, one coming from Canada. The association is a member of USAB (USA Basketball). The National Basketball Association was formed in june1946 as Basketball Association of America (BAA) and it changed its name to NBA in September1946.

The players who were playing in NBA formed an association in the name of national basketball players association. To agitate for their rights, this association was formed in 1952 and it first president was Bob Cousy. That the time the players lacked pension schemes, had no set of wages minimum salaries, and lacked health benefits. But the NBA refused to recognize. The mission of the NBPA is to save guard the rights of the player in NBA and to ensure that player are being assisted in all ways to nature and achieve their goals. The main objectives to NBPA to a player is: bargain for a collective bargaining agreement terms with NBA which controls all issues of players’ employment; make sure that the NBA and the basketball teams fulfill their agreements under the CBA;

Avail several of services and help to players using player services; evaluate and bargain for retirement and insurance benefits of a player; endorse, control and train player agents; give help to charity and social organization; ensure security is provided for staff and assist in any sensitive area; and lastly, advance the image and status of NBA players. These services are provided by the NBPA all the time to ensure that players’ rights are guarded. [1]

On the other hand, the players are required to report to NBPA in case of the following; to get professional legal advice or be represented in an disagreement; receive payments and some other information which can assist a player in contract negotiations; when a player wants to file complaint; when a player wants to petition a fine or suspension; if a player need to make a resolution  for a dispute with an agent; or if the player wants to seek protection of his medical benefits and any other right. Through NBPA the players currently get the biggest salaries than of any other labor organization found in the whole world. It its averaged that currently a player earns $4 million and this salaries are expected to rise to $5 million in few seasons to come.

            Any trade union is supposed to ensure the well being and better working conditions for it workers. This is achieved through collective bargaining, where the unions negotiate salaries terms with the employers. Another function of the labor unions is organize for strikes or lockouts to further there complaint, and sometimes take part in political activities to promote better legislation for the labor market. [2]

To examine how NBPA represents the players in a collective bargaining process, it is important to we revisit a case that occurred in 1999 between NBA and NBPA in terms of collective bargaining agreement. In 1999 NBA suffered it major dispute when for six months the league was not played due to a salary dispute between the NBA and NBPA. The dispute was resolved in January 1999 when an agreement was arrive at between the NBA and the NBPA. The agreement ended a strike of six months and loses of up to $1 billion in terms of revenue. The main issue in this disagreement was that NBA had put a limit on players’ salaries and the players had refused. The implications of this agreement  was that a player could earn as much as he could bargain for, this had afar reaching effects and it also contravened the labor relationship of players’ union and the league.

The dispute had started in October 1998 when the league was supposed to begin. So the NBA and the NBPA started negotiating for compromise. Final the NBPA got an increase on the lowest salary a player earns, and also a two in between salary provisions. This improved the salaries of the players. This increase saw averagely a player earning $3.6 million in 1999 from the previous of $2.6 million. Then the NBA rectified the rule on team salary cap to remove the several loopholes which made sly owners to contract a good player for long term period for only $100 million which was the limit then. This made players to sign very lucrative contracts.

The second agreement the NBPA achieved was unmatched player salary cap. This opened up the barrier that had been put on how much a player as an individual can earn. The player cap was to discourage the owner from signing many players for a long contract. Since, it was expensive to pay for those contracts. The public watched as the salaries of the players skyrocketed but they had very little to do. The agreement of the salary cap indeed did not take to account the labor regulations among the players associations and the lawful way of how other sports teams like athletes relate to they sports team in the professional world of sport. [3]

The new  team salary limit that the owners got known as “soft” cap put a limit on how much a team can use on its register , the net sum of team players salaries to be less than $30 million in the year 1999. While not to beyond $34 in the year 2000. Therefore, if a team wanted to sign a certain player, and yet the remaining balance under the set salary cap is less then the team could not sign the player. The revised cap also put a limit on how much a team can re-contract its own player, and also limited the amount another team can offer a player when he is under free agency. The players were allowed a maximum of 12% salary increment per year, while free agents were allowed a 10% increment. This legal aspect of salary cap to control players’ movement have been questioned and challenged in the court of law but even the Supreme Court upheld the rule.

From the case study we can examine how the NBPA union is similar or it differ with other traditional unions. As per standard union operations underlined in the National Labor Relations Act, stats that; unions should have a collective bargaining to decide salaries, work hours, and any other employment benefits. Therefore the legitimate of the collective bargaining of the NBPA raises some questions. However the labor laws being used in competitive sports is a little different than the other industries. For example, weaker teams must be protected in a league where there are other stronger teams because if not protected they may be driven out of the league thus failing the very league. From here we can see the dissimilarity of sports union and other traditional union. The major one being that the sports unions are exempted from the antitrust law. As observed in the case of NBA salary limits. Where as, in other professional sports unions, salary matters are left between the player and agent because each player has different skills and capacity. [4]

Courts on the other hand have also supported that teams and leagues be regarded as a business and teams should be taken as competitors just like in other industries. Thus, giving sport teams, a legal entity and authority to make agreements. The courts further points out that agreement concerning normal maters ought to be based on the antitrust law while agreements important to professional sports have to given an exemption of the antitrust law. As opposed to traditional unions, the league associations are independent and compete with each other, hence requiring the antitrust observation, but the associations have a unique produce (players) who are independent. But since the leagues do compete just similar to other industries relating to business issues, these leagues should be subjected to similar laws as other industries in the market field where restrictions are not subjected to a lot of antitrust law exemptions. [5]


From the above it is clear that basketball has increased a lot in terms of stature and popularity. Nevertheless, basket ball has not followed the laid down antitrust laws that governs labor organizations. The courts also have been used to endorse this behavior thus making the association to continue enjoying disobeying the antitrust laws. This must be checked to improve the vale of the game and the spirit of the game as it is being so much commercialized. The NBA need to regulate and its players and the whole system. Other wise the NBA may end up being a well paid league with slavery players tied to the owners of the clubs.


Balestier, B. (1999):  Affectionate Distrust Marked Drafting of NBA Settlement,

N.Y.L.J. Feb. 5, at 1: Reporting That the League’s Goal for the Bargaining Was “Cost Certainty,” But It Achieved “A Measure of Cost Predictability”

Lock, E. (1989): The Scope of Labor Exemption in Professional Sports, 1989 Duke L.J. 339, 403

Sobel, L, S. (1977):  Professional Sports and the Law, 303, 327 (1977).

Staudohar, P. (1997): Baseball’s Changing Salary Structure; Compensation And

Working Conditions, Fall

Welling, B. And Tasini, J. (1995):  Basketball: Business Is Booming, Bus. Wk., Oct. 28, 1995, At 78.

[1] Welling, B. And Tasini, J. (1995):  Basketball: Business Is Booming, Bus. Wk., Oct. 28, 1995, At 78.

[2] Staudohar, P. (1997): Baseball’s Changing Salary Structure; Compensation And Working Conditions, Fall

[3] Lock, E. (1989): The Scope Of Labor Exemption In Professional Sports, 1989 Duke L.J. 339, 403

[4] Lock, E. (1989): The Scope Of Labor Exemption In Professional Sports, 1989 Duke L.J. 339, 403

[5] Lock, E. (1989): The Scope Of Labor Exemption In Professional Sports, 1989 Duke L.J. 339, 403