Lakers Remind Us How Important NBA Labor Fight Will Be For Smaller Market Fans

The Phoenix Suns are playing the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. Silly concerns about a mid-season slumber aside, Kobe's team is once again a favorite to win the NBA title thanks as much to the size of their payroll as the size of their front line. Meanwhile, the Suns were forced to make a financially-motivated decision to blowup last year's Western Conference contender and are now praying to even make the postseason.

This is just one small reflection of the imbalance baked into the NBA system that will hopefully be addressed in the up-coming NBA labor negotiations and expected lockout. 

Fans love to complain about cheap owners who won't spend enough to win, and while in some cases there's truth to that, the more important reality is a structure that favors a few mega-market teams. The Lakers have the biggest salary of any team in the league ($90.3 million) thanks more to their zip code than the bank account of their owner. 

The $3 billion TV deal they just signed with Time Warner effectively guarantees them the ability to spend well beyond the limits of the current luxury tax system.

Phoenix isn't exactly a "small" market, but there's no way to compete with that advantage without changing the way the owners share their considerable revenue.

In the coming weeks and months we are going to hear more and more about the disputes between the owners and the players. Just like with the current NFL lockout, both sides are going to fire barbs at each other to try and convince fans like us that it's really the other group of rich people who are the greedy bastards.

Ignore all that. Do you really care if the owners and players split the pie 47 / 53 or 42 / 58? No.

What matters most in this battle is the division between the mega-market owners who want a system that preserves their perpetual advantage versus the other 90 percent of the league that needs a more equitable way of doing business. 

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