Dwight Howard giving the city of Orlando a collective groan.
To Dwyane Wade’s point, what the owners side of labor negotiations perhaps is not acknowledging is that the small market-big market dynamic in the NBA is as much, if not more, about taste than it is money.
This is not baseball where, year to year, big market advantage is predicated almost entirely on payroll. And this is not the NFL where teams, large or small, can build success from compiling and then retooling multiple parts.
In the NBA one or two players can make your franchise, be it L.A. or Oklahoma City. And if they leave your small market it’s not strictly a matter of money. San Antonio and Utah were lucky enough to draft Hall of Fame players who had rural inclinations, not so much interested in Broadway or the beach. Cleveland and Denver were not as lucky.
Of course it is always about money. Then again the Knicks can’t behave like the Yankees. Simply outbid small markets for the services of big name players then write off their mistakes. Thanks to the “Bird exception” you can’t outbid a team for its star. Cleveland offered LeBron his max earning potential for services on the basketball court. But they could not match that offer as it pertains to off the court interests. LeBron took a minor haircut so that he could take his talents to somewhere with more marketability, and maybe even a few more internet bikini models per capita. And only the most strident rollbacks of player rights in this new CBA could hope to address this small market concern.
In the NBA a lot of big stars want to be icons. Call it the “Jordan Effect,” and in its shadow a “Bird exception” is little more than a dying quail.