Stephen A. Smith Blasts NBA Defections

ESPN host and NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith is against American-born NBA players going abroad to play in other countries while the league is in lockout mode./Photo Credit: Dennnis J. Freeman

In the past several months NBA players have put together their own personal highlight tour, gracing public and community basketball leagues all over the country. Megastars Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are among many NBA ballers who taken their game to the streets this summer with the NBA in a full-fledged labor dispute.

 With the NBA owners locking them out from any type of communications from the team, including participating in workouts and rookie summer leagues, the players have taken it among themselves to stay in shape. Bryant, Durant and James and other NBA players have matched their skills with athletes of the Drew Summer League in South Los Angeles and at the more famous New York’s Rucker Park.

But while they’re honing their skills, NBA players are also eying making some extra money during the lockout, including exploring possibilities of playing basketball in other countries. The NBA claims that 22 of the league’s 30 teams are losing money. According to published reports, the players have that number a lot lower.

The owners want to put a cap on player salaries, slash contracts and cut down what rookies earn. The players want better share of the revenue pie and reduce the age limit to play in the NBA to 18 among their proposals. This has led to an impasse for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), thus creating the current work stoppage.

With that in mind, several NBA stars have already in the process of taking their game abroad to make some extra change. caught up with NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith at this year’s pre-ESPYs event to get his thoughts on the NBA lockout situation.

Smith, in a Q&A session with Editor Dennis J. Freeman, said going overseas to play ball is a strategic bad step for the players to make.    

N4US: Will the lockup last very long?

SAS: “I don’t think so. The NFL is making money.  The NBA teams are losing money. So, if they’re losing money the owners are going to be resolute. You’ve got to remember it’s not the same old-school owners that bought into the league with $13 million like Donald Sterling did with the Clippers in 1981. Dan Gilbert bought the Cleveland Cavaliers for $375 million dollars. It’s now worth $355 million because LeBron James walked out of the door and took 26 percent of the franchise with him. So when you’ve got owners that can literally point to the fact that they’re losing money and they are willing to hold out, you have to believe them. And I believe they’re going to hold out. Do you think these brothers out here can hold out for a year or two years?”

N4US: How do you feel about the notion of NBA players going overseas to make money?

SAS: “I totally disagree with that, especially in the case of Deron Williams. I’ve been outspoken about that and I stand by that. A union is a union. You have to stand together. This is no disrespect to Deron Williams. He’s a great guy. He made $14 million last year. He’s scheduled to make $16 million once the lockout ends due to him. He’s going to have a contract on the table anywhere from $80 to $100 million waiting for him, assuming the new CBA doesn’t inhibit their abilities to offer him those kinds of dollars.

“He’s one of the top point guards in the league. Why are you going overseas to get $5 million dollars? If you’re going overseas to get $5 million dollars, how is the second-tier player, who is not worth your value, who don’t have your name recognition, nor does he have the ability to globalize the NBA brand or globalize himself…how are you going to ask him to stand here back in the (United) States, stand pat and fight for the union and the CBA negotiations when the top tier players are going overseas to get paid? That is not a union. The point is if you leave and you go do that, and God forbid a couple of other superstars follow you-they cannot stand together. It is impossible if you have other guys who are willing to go overseas to get a little cash, especially when they don’t need it. It can’t work.”

N4US: How much will Kobe make?

SAS: “Kobe can make anywhere from $25 million to $50 million. Kobe can do that. I wouldn’t support him with that either. [But] you have to remember Kobe was raised in Italy for the first eight years of his life. He’s been a global brand for a quite a long time and he does a lot of businesses overseas. Tony Parker, he’s from France. I’ve got no problem with him going overseas.

But if you’re an American-born player, a part of a union…you wasn’t thinking about going globally before. You’re only thinking about doing that now because you’re trying to put some extra cash in your pocket or you’re trying to keep yourself in shape. Either way, you’re abandoning the guys whose stature is less than yours. You can’t do that and call yourself a union, especially against owners who are looking for an excuse to take you out because they believe you’re making too much money and they’re losing money. Business is simple. If you’re losing money, you’re going to lay off cats or you’re going to fire them so you can cut your losses. You’re not going to continue losing money the way you did last year and the year before.”



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