Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

October 16, 2011

Individual differences don’t lie

Filed under: N.B.A.,Sports — Razib Khan @ 4:16 pm

Over at Think Progress there’s a piece titled Why We Can’t Dismiss The NBA Labor Dispute As ‘Millionaires Versus Billionaires’, where the author argues that the players are fundamentally different than the owners in relation to the acquisition of their wealth. There’s a whole lot of prose there, but the first commenter really hit the nail on the head: Chris Rock solved this shit years ago (and you just read that in his voice) – “The guys on the court are RICH. The guy sitting up in the box is WEALTHY.” If you magically multiplied the players’ salaries by a factor of two all that would do is that push back the likelihood of bankruptcy by 5 years or so. An added cushion would take more time to burn through, but that would be compensated for the fact that signalling consumption would increase. In other words, instead of 8 cars in the garage, 16. Instead of an entourage of 6, 12.


Consider someone like Antoine Walker. He’s still trying to maintain a professional career when it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t have the skills due to his age. But he’s got to service his debts. Would doubling Walker’s salary have made a difference at the end of the day? I doubt it.

This isn’t an argument for paying professional basketball players any less. Professional sports teams seem more like a luxury consumption good for most owners (Donald Sterling excepted). Their consumption habits certainly have a stimulative effect, though it seems that financial mismanagement and fraud are extremely common events in the careers of these athletes. Because they lack sophistication the slickest and slimiest lawyers and accountants seem drawn to them. But it just seems foolish and evasive to admit that these individuals lack the basic skills to manage huge windfall incomes for a few years, and not propose any policy response if you think that their inevitable fates should be avoided. If you want to increase long term player well being then you’d want their contracts to be negotiated so that salaries would be disbursed over 20 or 30 years, with trustees who could release funds in case of an emergency (e.g., health costs, or expenditures in the face of immanent death). You’d need to go very paternal.

Greece, the American consumer, and our financial sector simply couldn’t handle massive capital inflows responsibly. We expect N.B.A. players who tend to exhibit high time preference to be saved by extra millions of dollars? Get real.

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