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What's being fought over in the NBA negotiations

NBA basketball

Jeremy Hobson: Now to the world of professional basketball which is on the verge of its first work stoppage since the 1990s. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires tomorrow. And players and owners still haven't reached a deal.

For more on this, let's bring in Henry Abbot from ESPN.com's True Hoop blog. Good morning.

Henry Abbott: Good morning.

Hobson: Well Henry, from the outside, it looks like a bunch of rich guys -- whether they be owners or players -- arguing over millions of dollars. Is there any reason that I shouldn't see it that way?

Abbott: It is definitely, you know, it's billionaires versus millionaires, and nobody in this fight is going to go hungry no matter what happens.

Hobson: And what's at stake? We're talking about 50/50 split or 57/43, is that basically what they're arguing over?

Abbott: They have long had a system where players get 57 percent of what's called basketball-related income, and the notion is that as basketball earns the league more money, players earn more money. Now, what's happening in these negotiations is that's changing, because giving the players that percentage of the income is too painful for owners, and they want to reduce that or change the structure entirely so that they pay the players more of a fixed cost instead of letting players have such a big chunk of the money as it comes in.

Hobson: Henry, put this in the context of the broader sports picture -- there's also this NFL lockout.

Abbott: There's an interesting thing going on here. In the NFL, they're fighting over profits. The NBA, the owners are saying, "Hey, this isn't working for us, this is a broken system, we need to fix it immediately."' Now, after a whole bunch of negotiating, the NBA players are sort of coming to the point of agreeing, "Yeah maybe the owners do need a little more something from us." So it puts a lot of pressure on players to actually work on a creative solution and you know, feel a little pain themselves, whereas in the NFL, nothing's compelling them to feel any pain at all.

Hobson: Is there the risk of losing fans in the long term if these lockouts, both in the NFL and the NBA, drag out?

Abbott: Oh sure. American fans have a bit of a rocky history of turning on NBA players. And so the league has done a great job, they have tremendous young stars and fans are very excited about these players right now. If they have them locked out and we see those pictures of these guys in their Armani suits walking across the sidewalks saying, "No they're not paying us enough, we won't work for you," it doesn't help. And so I think the league and the players are both cognizant of that. If they embitter fans to a league that they've sometimes don't love as much as they might, it could really hurt.

Hobson: Henry Abbott, a senior writer with ESPN.com's TrueHoop blog. Thanks so much for coming in.

Abbott: Thank you for having me.

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