A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Deron Williams flattens the world

with 5 comments

Deron Williams has announced that he’s signed a deal to play for the Turkish club Besiktas should the lockout continue what would have been the NBA season…and I love it.

Now, I don’t know if it’s the best move for Deron personally. He’s up for his new, huge NBA contract in a year, so what if he gets injured?

I also don’t know if it’s best for American basketball fans. Right now, if you want to be considered the best n in the world, you simply have to play in the NBA where us Americans get prime viewing access. Should there be a diaspora of talent overseas, maybe I get to see less of the best players in the world, and maybe when I do see them, it’s against weaker talent than now.

Still I get a real kick out of the move. In a world where “the world is flat” has come to mean a euphemism for regular people losing jobs, Williams has turned that on its head.

Globalization and Labor

In general, what globalization does is diminish the power of the labor pool is the wealthiest pockets of humanity. If I can find someone else to do your job for cheaper because it costs less to live elsewhere, you better lower your salary demands, or you’ll be out of a job.

Frankly, America has a real reckoning coming on this front that it still hasn’t grasped, and the actions of a few star athletes won’t change this. Still it’s fun to see how the same game can play out differently.

I’ll admit to someone in general being pro-union. Not that they never do stupid things, but typically, employees don’t try to unify unless they see their rights get picked off by being played against each other, which has certainly happened in professional sports.

Additionally, while if I represented the players I would be willing to negotiate, I find it hard to be sympathetic to business owners who know their revenues and costs, and make decisions that end up guaranteed to lose them money. The reality is that anyone who acts like this isn’t acting like a businessman, he’s acting like a hobbiest. Nothing against a hobbiest, but don’t come crying to me when you lose money on your hobby.

Don’t hate the player…

Now, people like to say “If it wasn’t for basketball, these guys would be bagging groceries”, and there’s truth to that, but the NBA is not basketball, it’s simply a league of basketball. We as a society of deemed being skilled at basketball to be something we’ll contribute money too, and hence someone with 1 in a 1,000,000 talent like Deron Williams gets a lot of money.

If the NBA disappeared tomorrow, Williams would still get a lot of money, whereas if all the NBA stars boycotted in the NBA, the NBA would die. That’s the power of being immensely talented at something that brings in money.

In the midst of this NBA lockout, Williams’ choice should send a shockwave through NBA management. If this becomes any kind of trend, the Association’s bargaining power will become significantly diminished.

Of course let’s not be too dramatic: These European league can’t pay what the NBA can. However, this is not like the NFL where there truly is not a place where players can make large amounts of money, and the NBA had better recognize this.

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Written by Matt Johnson

July 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Yeah, it’s an interesting development. This is especially so for mid-range players for whom the NBA has been a cultural default rather than an objective self-interested choice.

    When the NBA resumes they might find a few of their foot soliders prefer the countries in which they were posted rather than coming home to work on the farm. The other question is whether or not the tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars worth of basketball talent can effectively be absorbed by the Euroleague, given the region’s financial troubles (for example, I doubt that Panathanaikos are going to spend big).

    (somewhat disagree on your definition of globalization due to the effects of mobile capital to dictate terms to the global south, but that’s very much a side issue).

    This is going to drive cultural diversification of basketball, and on that narrow principle, I love it.

    Ravenred

    July 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    • Realistically, I’d agree there’s a good chance that these Euro teams can’t actually present a real threat to the NBA any time soon, but if NBA management isn’t look into the very long term here, I think they’re being foolish.

      Matt Johnson

      July 9, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      • These are anomalous circumstances, so ” all things being equal” as the economists love, this won’t have a great long-term effect. However, economics is voodoo science if it doesn’t take into account human behaviour and social and cultural norming.

        You’re going to see a hell of a lot of one-year contracts, but the injection of talent into Europe (and the adoption (to varying degrees) of European style play by the new immigrant workforce) will have some interesting long-term effects.

        Ravenred

        July 10, 2011 at 12:46 am

  2. […] Deron Williams flattens the world (asubstituteforwar.com) […]

  3. In general, what globalization does is diminish the power of the labor pool is the wealthiest pockets of humanity. If I can find someone else to do your job for cheaper because it costs less to live elsewhere, you better lower your salary demands, or you’ll be out of a job.

    Frankly, America has a real reckoning coming on this front that it still hasn’t grasped, and the actions of a few star athletes won’t change this.

    _

    This is non-basketball related but this comment reminded me of the stunning paper by Spence & Hlatshwayo which found the tradeable sector of the U.S economy generated almost no jobs over the last two decades.

    http://www.cfr.org/industrial-policy/evolving-structure-american-economy-employment-challenge/p24366

    sp6r=underrated

    July 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm


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