NBA’s Stern Says All Teams Should Be Profitable Within Two Years

A majority of National Basketball Association teams will make money this year and all 30 franchises should be profitable within two years, Commissioner David Stern said.

Stern, speaking on “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing on Bloomberg Television this weekend, said the 10-year agreement negotiated last year with the players’ union, which includes revenue sharing and an increased tax on teams that exceed a salary cap, will enable every franchise to eventually make money.

“This year, we’ll probably have about 10 teams losing money,” Stern said. “And next year, I hope the number will be down to under five. And then after that, I would expect that all of our teams will have the opportunity to make money.”

Stern had said during negotiations that the league’s 30 teams had lost at least $300 million collectively during each of the past three seasons.

He said a shortened season and compressed schedule didn’t hurt the league this season.

“It seems that we have come out of it just about where last season came off,” Stern said. “We’re pleased beyond pleased. We didn’t expect it to be this good.”

A luxury tax on high-spending teams and revenue sharing will allow clubs in smaller markets to compete with those in places like New York and Los Angeles, Stern said.

Revenue Sharing

“Under our new collective bargaining system, we have in place a system where those teams can clearly compete,” Stern said. “There is a very high tax that will be imposed after next season. We think that will press down the salary level among the top teams. In addition, the highest grossing teams will be redirecting well over $200 million to the smaller teams. So we think, as a competitive matter, as an economic matter, we have leveled the playing field.”

A 149-day labor stoppage caused the NBA season to begin Dec. 25, 54 days later than originally planned, and a schedule of 66 games rather than 82.

He said the shortened schedule didn’t lead to any more injuries, even though players have less time to rest between games.

“It makes a nice issue,” he said. “We’re studying it. But we can’t confirm what people are writing about.”

He also said the NBA’s rules against violence were working. Metta World Peace of the Los Angeles Lakers was suspended after elbowing James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the head last month.

Curbing Player Violence

“The recent incident demonstrates how much we have squeezed violence out of the NBA,” Stern said. “In the case of the gentleman formerly known as Ron Artest, he was a repeat offender and we dealt harshly, I think, with a seven-game suspension.”

Stern, a lawyer, said a federal investigation of the players union would not hurt the league.

“The appropriate thing to do is to accord people the benefit of the doubt and see what due process ultimately yields,” he said. “If I had nickel for every federal investigation that went no place and throw in some state ones as well, I could afford to move to Washington.”

The National Football League suspended New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma on May 2 for a year without pay for his role in a bounty program in which players received bonsues for injuring opponents.

Stern said he doesn’t plan to pursue a political career once he steps down as NBA commissioner.

“My next career is not going to involve politics,” he said. “It’s only going to involve kibitzing of politicians, and talking to my friends in the Washington media about how the state of the world should be changed.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net.

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