Cash for hoops NBA lockout: Team owners created sky-high player salaries they now want to curb.

October 11, 1998

THOUGH IT is difficult to choose sides in the dispute between National Basketball Association owners and players, a referee would have to hit owners with a technical foul for whining about outrageous salaries of their own making.

Team owners drove a gigantic loophole through a strict salary cap in 1983 to allow the Boston Celtics to re-sign superstar Larry Bird for an amount that exceeded that limit. It was this salary cap that was supposed to rein in owners' competitive impulses when bidding on top players.

Players agreed to the salary cap, then agreed to the so-called Larry Bird exception. Now they don't want to stuff this genie of riches back into the bottle.

The players aren't paupers. Want to get close to an NBA star? Better lace up a pair of sneakers endorsed by one of them. Indeed, some are worth the high price of admission. But the league has too many mediocre millionaires and too many unproven young players demanding $100 million contracts, thanks to the folly of the owners.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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