Yes, Sportswriters Still Think Labor Mobility Is Stupid


Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks last week, an outcome long anticipated by both the primary player and the teams involved. It's unclear which team benefited most from this laundry swap, but Dr. Teeth fanboy Rick Reilly filed a column gnashing and wailing over the The State of the Game anyway. Playing the part of ownership shill, Reilly proclaims that the NBA's ruination will come from  "very tall, very rich 20-somethings running the league from the backs of limos:"

The NBA used to work on a turn system. You will lose, but if you hang in there, you'll be rewarded with a very high draft pick like an Anthony, and your turn at glory will arrive.

Not anymore. The superstars are in charge now. Now, you lose and you get a pick, and that pick immediately starts texting his pals to see where they'll all wind up in three years. Pretty soon, you're back losing again.

Get ready, Oklahoma City.

LeBron James exploiting his relatively limited labor freedom and taking his talents to Miami last summer got this nonsensical argument going, and it makes no more sense now. There's never been a "turn system" in the NBA: Only 12 teams have won a championship since the 1976 merger. Losing still leads to high picks, which often leads to players not worth a hoot, as Mr. Pervis Kwame Tractor Darko Olowokandi can attest.

Reilly advocates the NBA adopt a franchise tag so owners can hold on to their players year-by-year against their will. This is a step back toward the 1960s glory days when teams literally owned players for life and athletes kept their mouths shut. Good management will find good players and retain them as needed despite all of the distortions and inequities in the cartelized professional sports market. Just ask Oklahoma City.

More from Reason on the sports here.

Read about Curt Flood, the "Moses of free agency," and other freedom fighters here