Are talent agencies doing to D1 and the NBA what they appeared to do to the old Hollywood studio system?

  • The old studio system in Hollywood became unviable in large part, because talent agencies over time increased the cost of talent too much for studios to maintain great hordes of talent.and develop and subordinate it for the long term to the business agenda of the studios. The studios sewed their own doom by exploiting the talent for decades by underpaying it and bullying it. Agents operating in bigger and biger talent agencies began to liberate movie stars from servitude to the studios by getting them bigger and bigger contracts, free agency and eventually more and more favorable movie packages, more and more control of who they worked with, etc. Is this what is happening to D1 and the NBA? The studio system produced a golden age of movies and movie stars that has never been surpassed in quality and durability of product and stars. Actors, directors, and craftsmen and film making have gotten better technically but the stars and films are not as captivating and brilliant and enduring as they once were. Are D1 and the NBA past their primes? Has the game and it’s sports heroes entered a long decline of improving individual abilities and globalizing blockbuster bottom lines that never converge to produce stars as bright and teams as great ever again?

    “Never let it be forgot/ That once there was a Camelot.”

  • An interesting question. I think we are closing in on a day when it’s possible that the players will be able to run their own professional league.

    Think about it this way.

    Track any of the big stars that came in the league since 1995.

    Kevin Garnett has made over $300m in his career, just playing basketball. He has probably made another couple hundred million through various advertising avenues.

    Kobe Bryant had made close to $280m in his career before this season. He’s owed $25m for next season.

    Tim Duncan is at $225m before this year.

    Chris Webber is worth about $350m (estimated) and has expressed interest in buying an NBA team. The guys I listed above could certainly put together an ownership group. Michael Jordan owns a team. By the end of their careers, Lebron and Carmelo will be in the same career earnings bracket, and both have developed the business skills to own a team.

    This is an important fact because the NBA has, of late, been the league with the most unsettled player-owner relationship. This is in large part due to the fact that the owners have battled to keep player salaries down, all while continuing to rake in profits. That is all coming back to roost now with the new TV deal blowing the old one out of the water.

    It’s not out of the question that some of those late 1990’s and early 2000’s stars don’t start taking their talents into the board room as opposed to just being broadcasters. I think that is a fear of NBA owners. Basketball careers can last long enough now, particularly with OADs, that you can play for 15-18 years and earn a very high salary for 12 or 13 of those years, meaning that when you retire you will have banked close to $300m and be in a very good position (if you were smart with your money) to be worth quite a bit of money - not just comfortable money, but ownership type money.

    And if players can own NBA teams, that means they also have the money to start their own league. Most NBA teams no longer own their arenas. The arenas are rented from the localities where they are located. The Lakers and Clippers are just tenants at Staples Center. The cheapness of many owners in not wanting to build their own arenas could come back to haunt them all.

  • @justanotherfan

    Super fresh angle on my post. Better than mine!!!

    Long term, a lot of this comes down to how the current bonanza and instabilities tie to and impact Big Gaming-Big Media, and how they tie to and impact Big Shoe-Big Apparel-Big Oil on the other.

    (Note: Big Shoe-Big Apparel-Big Oil is the Big Variable. Big Apparel is really the only way to long term soak up the over supply of Big Oil being created by the technologically driven migration inexorably away from singular dependence on oil for energy for transportation and heavy dependence on it for heating and food production. Genetic engineering allows us to move away from petroleum based pesticides and herbicides long term. LNG, solar, wind and geo thermal guarranty we will inexorably migrate off oil almost completely for heat. Tesla proves electric cars and trucks and trains are feasible now. And there is zero need for oil to generate the electricity for transportation. And LNG once brought under proprietary ownership and infrastructure distribution an replace oil for backing central banking reserve currencies as well as oil. And environmental laws can be contrived to rationalize denial of use of a lot of oil by emerging economies that might choose non compliance. But a market use is needed for oil to reduce the oversupply created by migrating off transportationing with it, growing food with it, and heating with it. We are never going to completely stop using oil because it is increasingly understood to be a renewable, abiotic energy source behind the bogus hype of it not being; that is not how these migrations work, but we are going to migrate away from such singular dependence on it. But we have to have an alternative demand for it to ease the shock to sunk costs of the migration. This is where Big Apparel comes in. Big apparel has to be created in order to migrate the world off cotton, linen, and wool, all of which depend heavily on petro herbicides, pesticides and petro feed for critters, to get us wearing petro apparel. Migrating the worlds growing population and expanding population in countries emerging as advanced economies is an important step in soaking up the excess oil supply created by migrating off of its usage in the conventional ways mentioned above. Getting the earth’s population buying new clothes and shoes every season made of petro fibers can and will ease the political economic shock of migration away from oil in these other more polluting uses of oil. We can greatly control pollution of refining oil at the refinery. Its out in the fields and tail pipes where it really fouls up the atmosphere and the ground water. Petro clothing will create a different set of environmental problems, but they will be at least different and with less strident constituencies at first, and so we will opt for the path of lesser resistance and deal with those problems when we get there. It is the way of humans dealing with problems. )

    Is it better for either/both to see a succession of ownerships and control to a new player-owner oligarchy, or to use certain investment management firms working with untraceable bailout monies and other less savory monies to restore order in the hands of a thinned out old ownership order. History suggests the latter.

    The main thing is: everything had to be destabilized in order to get it rationalized for globalization of the game and its vastly increasing gambling, endorsement and advertising capacities.

    The real money in sport long term is rationalizing institutions and ownership and financing regimes into orders more coinciding with emerging regional and global orders.

    There is no reason, say, for the gambling control of legal profits and reputed money laundering activities in Big Gaming in Italy, say, not to be integrated with gaming around the world. In fact it must be, or local political and economic opponents will free ride on the regionalization and globalization and upset the process.

    The pro leagues of Europe and Asia and Africa will have to be brought into some kind of order to avoid free riding and destabilization from outside. In this regard, the sports Bidness sector is just a microcosm of other business sectors undergoing rationalization to changing regional and globalization constraints.

    D1 and the NBA ARE BEING DESTABILIZED into succession into more rationalized orders–better for some, worse for others. It will be called many things–the invisible hand of markets–even though the markets are only situationally allowed to function, conspiracy–even though no one involved is hiding any thing they do, and dynamics of managed regionalization and globalization–which is what all the economic policy papers at respected think tanks for half a century or more have been calling for.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. I have been reading about the history of the first 50 years of the game and one thing stands out above all else: there has been an endless series of efforts to reorganize the sport into more rational orders. The pros, the AAU, corporate, gambling and media, schools and players have been competing for their interests From the beginning. The only real loser has been the YMCA, which was a hotbed of the game for 30 years at the start. Wish the YMCA lawyers could claim intellectual property rights and re-enter the frey. 😄

  • Banned

    Who knew a peach basket and a leather ball could change the world.

  • One more thing, about the NBA players having the wealth to migrate into ownership.

    In Hollywood, and the car business, “the talent” tried to move into “ownership” frequently. Early on they failed frequently in Hollywood. Someone like Ford succeeded for a time in the car business, but eventually his heirs had to to turn Ford into a conventional corporation with a more and more diluted family interest. The rest of the car corporations are to greater or lesser extent “corporations” rather than talent owned.

    Once the Hollywood studio oligopoly of the early era broke down, there was a brief window where both talent agencies, and talent partnerships rose to the fore. The talent agencies rose to a monopoly, then receded to oligpoly. The talent partnerships mostly collapsed. But some prevailed. Spielberg/Geffen/Katzenburg succeeded. Lucas kicked ass and now essentially controls Disney. Scorcese, and DeNiro have succeeded on smaller scales. Cameron seems mostly a fabulously successful independent film maker, but I don’t follow the biz anymore, so I don’t know about him and the new wave of cable and internet and TV based filmmakers.

    But still the latter day studios, as financial entities and wholesalers dominate the business in getting access to distribution. And even as the internet increasingly drives content distribution, the theater chains stay closely held beyond the control of “the talent.”

    And in all entertainment, you are heavily constrained by your distribution channel.

    For “the talent” in the NBA to really make a go of it, they will have to get more control of distribution, which may, or may not be feasible in the interrnet era…

  • @DoubleDD

    It is fascinating, but if one reads history thoughtfully, not totally surprising.

    At least since the time of Rome, private oligarchies and their agent representative governments have understood the power of sport to entertain, captivate, unify and distract their peoples from their own capacities to influence the business of government and business.

    In short, the leaders of ancient Rome understood that the spectacle of sport was conducive to competing with religion and theater in conditioning the people to identify with the group and so believe they had a strong common interest and benefit in sacrificing for that common interest.

    The early middle ages came to be dominated by the rituals of the church and discouraged great stadium building and to some extent the mass secular arts of theater and music outside in the amphitheaters, because they associated sport with paganism and dissent into barbarism that befell Rome.

    The institution of the Olympics of Greece were lost to Rome and the Middle Ages. The institutionalized Roman spectacle sports were lost to the Middle Ages and up to the 19th Century.

    We have the architects of the joint British and American Empire of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to thank (or blame) for the reascendance of the secular, mass spectacle sport.

    They clearly understood that their emerging global empires were going to be riddled with conflict because of the greatly diverse cultures they were trying to lord over and the increasing speed of communication and increase in killing power of weapons.

    They sought to introduce institutionalized sport to build esprit d’ corp in their own peoples to make them more willing to fight wars of empire and to tolerate non-democratic administration of conquered lands.

    Sports indoctrinates values of cooperation with “your” side and conquest of your opponent. It also indoctrinates the idea of on-going, institutionalized competition–what might be called tolerance of permanent limited war.

    The architects of British and American empire–the form of hegemonic empire that we now live with–saw that track and field, soccer, American football, and American basketball all had this potential for binding the masses they would be leaders of into team members willing to fight for the empires. I suspect that in America they saw the same in baseball, but realized that baseball was already its own business, and they needed to subsidized competing games like football and basketball through public schools and universities, to get control of the whole cultural and empire function of sport. And they understood that sport was a pleasing entertainent that distracted their peoples from the inequities among them resulting from empire building.

    Sport gave us all something to talk about and distract ourselves with, whenever they had to do things that we might not like, or that we might find not in our own best interests.

    They apparently thought it worked for the Romans for quite a long while, why not give it a go,eh, chaps?

    Some British diplomats even said in the late 19th Century, but especially after WWI, England can play the role of Greece advising Rome. And America can play the role of conquering Rome. And our peoples and the peoples we conquer can be kept fit, entertained and distracted from the often unfair, often vicious business of empire.

    Institutionalized sport, in short, is crucial to the administration of empire both at home and in the conquered lands in many ways.

    What I will always wonder is: did James Naismith ever grasp this? He was a well educated young man from one of the academic seats of the empire building ethos–McGill University of Canada, which was the equivalent of being from Harvard, Yale, or Princeton in USA, or Oxford, Cambridge in England under Great Britain.


    Its the greatest game ever invented.

    Whatever uses it may, or may not, have been put to.

    Rock Chalk!

  • I don’t think anyone envisioned the potential power of sports. For one, even if sports became “professional”, I doubt that they thought careers would last long enough to give an individual an opportunity to generate substantial wealth.

    I think there were people that knew athletics could make people rich. Even in the era of gladiators in the Roman empire, the best gladiators were rich. But riches do not make wealth. Riches last a lifetime. Wealth can be passed down throughout generations.

    Up until very recently, sports could make you rich, but the frailty of the human body, and, necessarily, the career of the athlete, meant that an athlete could not sustain his earning potential long enough to cross the gap between riches and wealth.

    Muhammad Ali laid out the blueprint by being able to cross into pop culture and become an icon. However, the violence of boxing and the pounding that he took meant that he could not enjoy the best wine from the fruits of the vineyard he planted. In truth, every athlete of today owes a large degree of their earning power to the path that Muhammad Ali blazed. But Ali showed that you can be an icon as an athlete in a way that was previously reserved for only politicians, world leaders and religious figures. That’s why they call him “The Greatest.”

    Jordan took the prototype that Ali built and weaponized it. He refined the craft, going from just icon to a business unto himself. First it was the shoes, then it was the tongue, then the Gatorade. Now he is his own billion dollar brand, and he owns his own team.

    And with that, the cycle is ready to be renewed. From athlete, to icon, to entrepreneur, to owner. The Ali-Jordan model is ready for its next upgrade.

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