Revisiting The 1998 Lockout: A Timeline
The NBA lockout has drifted into its second month and sadly there appears to be no end in sight. If history has taught the owners and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) anything, then a look at the timeline of the 1998 lockout should be a decent guide as to what can be expected for the current predicament.
The ’98 lockout lasted throughout the summer and well into the start of the season. Here are the highlights and lowlights of the 1998 lockout.
March 23, 1998-Seeking changes in the league’s salary cap and wanting a ceiling on individual players salaries, the owners vote 27-2 in favor of re-opening the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
April 1, 1998-The first of nine negotiating sessions takes place between the owners and NBPA.
June 22, 1998-The last negotiating session takes place with no resolution. The owners stick to their demand of a hard salary cap, which the players refuse meaning a lockout is all but inevitable.
June 30, 1998–The NBA front office announces a lockout will begin on July 1, 1998. The NBPA files a grievance on behalf of 224 players with arbitrator John Feerick asking that players with guaranteed contracts be paid during the lockout.
July 1, 1998-The third lockout in league history begins. While most NBA players are paid only during the season, there are some that are paid over 12 months or have a lump-sum payment. Boston’s Kenny Anderson becomes one of the first players to miss a paycheck, a reported $5.8 million.
August 6, 1998–CBA talks resume with the NBPA offering a new proposal to the owners. The owners are so disgusted with the proposal they walk out of the meeting after only 90 minutes.
August 1998-After winning gold in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, USA Basketball enters the FIBA World Championship with no NBA Players on its roster. The United States won the bronze medal, their lowest finish in international competition since NBA players were allowed to participate.
August 26 thru September 9, 1998-Guaranteed contracts hearing held before arbitrator Feerick.
September 10, 1998-The NBA front office cancels its first game, an October 12 exhibition game between Miami and Maccabi Elite of Israel. It is the first competition in league history to be lost due to a lack of a CBA.
September 24, 1998-The NBA front office postpones training camps indefinitely and cancels 24 exhibition games.
October 5, 1998–The NBA front office cancels the remainder of the exhibition season.
October 8, 1998–The owners and NBPA meet for approximately 4 ½ hours, making little progress.
October 13, 1998-The NBA front office officially cancels the first two weeks of the season, 99 games in November are lost as a result. Until this time, the NBA was the only major professional sports league in the United States not to lose games due a labor dispute.
October 19, 1998-The owners win a ruling by arbitrator Feerick that they don’t have to pay players under guaranteed contracts during the lockout. The ruling is considered a major win by the owners and helps strengthen their position during the negotiations.
October 26, 1998-The New York Times publishes an interview with a candid Kenny Anderson who gives the paper one of the most famous quotes during the lockout. In the article Anderson says, “I was thinking about selling one of my cars. I don’t need all of them. You know, just get rid of the Mercedes.”
Anderson’s quote, along with NBPA President Patrick Ewing’s statement, “We make a lot of money, but we spend a lot of money,” helps sway the media and fans in favor of the owners’ position.
October 28, 1998-At a full meeting of the NBPA, the owners are asked to speak. The players and owners have words highlighted by Steve Kerr saying the owners offer is “insulting” and Michael Jordan saying to Wizards owner Abe Polin, “If you can’t make a profit, you should sell your team.”
November 3, 1998-The lights stay off in arenas across the country, as the opening night of the 1998-1999 season does not happen.
November 6, 1998-The NBPA fails to give the owners a new proposal despite promising them one.
November 20, 1998-The NBPA and owners meet for 13 hours. After the meeting, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter reports there was some significant progress made during the extra long session.
November 23, 1998-The NBA front office cancels the marquee Christmas day game of the New York Knicks v. the Chicago Bulls.
November 25, 1998-Five days after Hunter reported significant progress in CBA talks, the NBPA says it misunderstood a portion of the owners’ proposal and states the two sides haven’t made any progress. The November 25 negotiating session is cancelled.
December 1, 1998-One month before the end of the year, the NBA front office cancels a New Year’s Day game between Seattle and Minnesota, officially pushing the lockout into 1999.
December 4, 1998-After an 11-hour meeting, Commissioner David Stern says it is more likely there will not be an NBA season than the prospect of staging a shortened one.
December 7, 1998-Agents David Falk and Arm Tellem arrange a charity exhibition game dubbed a “Gift to the Fans” to be played December 19 in Atlantic City. The proceeds are to be spit between charities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia and for locked-out players in “financial need.”
December 8, 1998-The NBA front office cancels the All-Star game that was to be held in Philadelphia.
December ?-Sometime during a December negotiating session, Hunter and Stern participate in a heated expletive filled discussion.
December 19, 1998-The Atlantic City charity game proceeds as planned, but due to the controversy of players taking a portion of the proceeds from a charity game, all the money is donated to charities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia.
The charity game isn’t the success players and agents were hoping for. 16 players participated, including stars Charles Barkley and Patrick Ewing. One player who was missing though was Michael Jordan, his absence along with a slow tourist season in Atlantic City at that time of year, caused ticket sales to stall.
The game took place in a 12,500-seat arena, but only sold 9,512 tickets. The event also wasn’t shown on national television, instead being televised on the premium cable station Showtime.
December 23, 1998-Stern recommends canceling the season if no deal is reached by January 7, 1999. Some of the higher paid players in the league begin struggling financially, and begin pushing Hunter for a deal.
Also, Hunter and Stern hold a five-hour meeting.
December 27, 1998-During another negotiating session, the owners make what they say is their final CBA proposal.
December 30, 1998-The NBA sends the owners’ latest CBA Proposal to all NBPA members, asking that they put it to a vote. The NBPA’s executive council rejects the idea of a vote and announces the next day that it will submit its last offer to the owners.
January 4, 1999-The owners reject the NBPA’s final proposal during the first full negotiating session in nearly a month. Stern says the NBA might consider the use of replacement players for the 1999-2000 season, should the dispute linger into the following season.
January 5, 1999-Players converge on New York for a scheduled vote the next day on the NBPA’s decision to reject the owners’ latest proposal. Unbeknownst to many, Stern and Hunter are meeting through the night to seek a compromise.
January 6, 1999-Hunter and Stern negotiate throughout the night and finally come to an agreement on a new CBA. The NBPA and owners ratify the agreement later in the day.
Kevin Johnson’s thoughts on the players coming together to vote on a new CBA, “We were just ready to throw down [fight] Wednesday at our meeting if an agreement hadn’t been reached.”
The players ratify the agreement 179-5.
January 20, 1999-A new CBA is signed by both parties, ending the lockout at 204 days. The new CBA capped players salaries, introduced a rookie salary scale, capped pay raises, raised the league’s minimum salary, and kept the Bird exception as well as adding other salary cap exceptions. At the time, the new CBA was hailed as a victory for the owners.
February 5, 1999-The season finally begins, but the consequences of the lockout would be felt for years. The season was shortened to 50 games, the NBA’s marquee player, Michael Jordan, retired and 464 regular season games were lost.
Average attendance dropped 2.2% per game, the NBA saw television ratings drop for three consecutive years and with training camps shortened, some players were never able to get back into shape. Shawn Kemp and Vin Baker’s careers were never the same after coming into training camp overweight and not being ready for the grind of an NBA season.
Turning our attention to the current lockout, the NBPA and owners appear headed to a similar fate as back in 1998. Unless the owners and NBPA start meeting on a regular basis and deadlines begin being set, it is unlikely any agreement is going to be reached before training camps are supposed to start.