The NBA had lockouts in 1995, 1996, 1998-99 and 2011.
Adam Silver became commissioner in 2014.
Then, something remarkable happened. Owners and players agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2016 WITHOUT a lockout first.
By overseeing significant revenue gains across the board, Silver has rallied together owners with differing viewpoints. He has built trust with players, treating them as partners rather than adversaries. Silver’s handling of the Donald Sterling affair created a lasting positive impression (though perhaps not a totally accurate one).
The NBA has arguably grown more united than ever under Silver.
That has become especially important amid the league’s coronavirus crisis.
As the uncertainty grows, and science, economic and competitive elements collide, there’s one constant in the struggle to revive the NBA: Owners and players are delivering Adam Silver full room to operate, govern and make the decision on resuming play amid a pandemic. No power grabs, no factions, no public criticisms on the commissioner’s judgment.
In a league of wildly rich, successful, powerful and, yes, egomaniacal characters, no one has tried to usurp Silver’s voice in this coronavirus crisis. These billionaires and global icons left the shutdown to the commissioner, and together, they’re leaving the resumption and reshaping of a different NBA to him too.
Silver doesn’t deserve blind trust. After all, NBA arenas were still packing fans into arenas after coronavirus was spreading through the United States. The NBA also planned to start a new game even after Rudy Gobert tested positive.
But perception also matters, and stakeholders trust Silver.
That’s is in stark contrast to baseball, where contentious is brewing.
Already, getting players to agree to larger salary withholding without much fuss was a major victory for the NBA.
Agreeing to terms on a resumed season will be an even bigger challenge.
The large amount of money involved creates incentives to get along. That also adds pressure.
It’s a lot to navigate.
But it’s clear Silver has the support to steer the ship.