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Did The Lockout And The Loss Of Michael Jordan Have A Negative Effect On The NBA

Disputes between the NBA Players’ Union and owners extend deep into January of 98‘, the NBA season was shortened to a 50 game schedule due to the disputes between the two groups and the lockout of the players by the owners.. Before the beginning of the shortened season on February 1 of 1999, many “experts” predicted a number of negative effects to the NBA as a result of the labor disputes. Among these were; a decrease in attendance, less support by the fans, non-competitive games by players that are out of shape , and a season that wouldn’t be as entertaining as people or the media were used to.
However, after searching through the data , It is my opinion that the labor dispute has caused certain situations that have actually benefited the NBA, both players and owners. These situations that have been beneficial to the league include the rise in free-agency moves, the shortened length of the season, , and the retirement of the best player ever to play; Michael Jordan.
The primary concern of league authorities after the lockout was how to keep the fans interested. They had known from previous strikes in other leagues that these had very bad effects on attendance. In fact, a study found that overall fan participation has drastically exceeded expectations and has even increased from the past year.
The most significant figure deals with the NBA’s historical attendance figures, where the average attendance in recent years (94-98) has been around 14,900, this years average clearly contends with an average attendance of 14,912 (Evans 4/13/99).
From the perspective of an economist one must ask why these stats occur.
The answer is indeed due to the lockout. With a shortened season, teams are forced to play 50 games in 90 days. This is extremely different than the normal season’s 82 games in 200 days. This has raised the level of competition because teams simply can’t afford to lose like they have in the past regular seasons. Phil Jackson, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, summed this notion up best when he stated, “teams simply can’t go on losing streaks like past seasons or they will find themselves at home for the playoffs.” With teams playing as many as 6 games in as many nights, players are forced to perform their best day in and day out, or else they will not be successful in such a short season. This is not the case in an 82 game regular season because teams usually have as much as a week in between games in order to rest.
Another interesting result of the dispute between the players and the owners has to do with free agency. Players today have more freedom to test their worth on an open market more than ever. There were big name players switching teams more often. These newly acquired free agents provided an increase in the level of play, and as a result increased the level of excitement for the fans. Nearly every team has a recognized player that can draw fans to the games. The fans of the NBA were given an incentive to see their own franchise perform well, whether it be to see a newly acquired player, or to root against one that left and is now back in town to play his old team . These numerous free agent moves caused a new interest for fans who follow the league . Fans are interested in what stars are playing where (Pippen is in Portland), as well as who specific players are being coached by and if everyone is getting along (Shaq and Kobe with Phil at the head). Whatever the reason, the fact remains that today’s free agent moves have caused an increase in fan participation because in general, people are intrigued by the changes occurring in the NBA.

The shortened season has also been beneficial to television ratings because basketball fans can now expect nationally televised NBA action on the affiliated TNT and TBS stations every weekday night, as well as on NBC both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. With everyone’s season being shortened and free agency providing so