But Stern on Saturday rolled out another figure he believes needs to be out there: $400 million.
That's the total amount of money he says NBA teams will lose this season. Stern also spoke of losses of at least $200 million per season in the first four seasons of the current collective bargaining agreement, 2005-09.
Stern often doesn't like to deal in such negatives. But he felt compelled to throw out that figure, which he said has been provided to the players union, a day after union executive director Billy Hunter said a CBA by the NBA that wanted to drastically cut player salaries was unacceptable.
"We have shown the players the facts, and, at our current level of revenue devoted to players' salaries, it's too high. I can run from that, but I can't hide from that. And I don't think the players can, either."
A source said Thursday that 25 to 27 of the NBA's 30 teams will lose money this season.
Stern said Hunter was invited to attend Saturday's press briefing and sit alongside him, which often has been the format before. But Stern said Hunter declined.
Hunter had said his piece Friday after the union and the owners' negotiating committee had what he called a "contentious'' meeting. He said the NBA was out of line in making a proposal that called for drastically cutting salaries, including eliminating the mid-level exception, scaling back guaranteed contracts and reducing the length of deals. He said the NBA wanted to cut the amount of basketball-related income players get, from 57 percent to a 50-percent figure that would be calculated after expenses are taken out.
Stern declined to give specifics on what was in the NBA's proposal. He denied Hunter's contention that, even though the current CBA runs through next season, the NBA wants to get a deal done by July to have some certainty about the future heading into a summer in which there will be ample marquee free agents available.
Stern said he doesn't know when the sides again will meet or when the NBA might want a proposal from the union that Hunter said is willing to be provided. Stern said Hunter will be given a call shortly after the conclusion of All-Star Weekend.
While Hunter also called Friday's meeting "heated,'' Stern said this "wasn't in the top three of contentiousness'' of meetings he has been a part of in 26 years as commissioner.
"I would give [Friday's] meetings high marks on the list of theatrical negotiations,'' Stern did say about union tactics.
Stern said the union brought in a lawyer who threatened that the union could be dissolved and the NBA sued for antitrust violations. But Stern didn't seem too concerned about that.
"The lawyer was brought in to threaten us as a tactic to say ... the union is going to go away, that's going to make you bargain harder,'' Stern said. "The right adjectives were thrown around, and our proposal was appropriately denounced."
Stern did at least have one good thing to say about union tactics. Attending Friday's meeting were 10 All-Stars, 11 if one counts injured All-Star Chris Paul who would have been there regardless due to being on the union board.
"We were actually pleased to see the stars come out, in effect, because we think that a tradition that has all of the players involved is a good tradition, and, particularly, the superstars,'' Stern said. "Because, as I told them [Saturday] ... they lead our league. They are ultimately the reason our fans are here.''
Denver forward Carmelo Anthony was one of the stars on hand. He told FanHouse on Saturday night the union is determined to not back down.
"We're not going to break,'' Anthony said. "We're going to stand strong. ... That's good all of us [All-Stars] were in there. That's the face of the league. [Young stars] represent the [future of the] league. The young players, we need to be there.''
Anthony echoed the thoughts of Hunter in saying the owners' proposal was unacceptable. With many believing there will be a lockout after next season, Anthony did admit to being worried about the future.
"Anybody would be,'' he said. "But something will be worked out.''
At least the union and the owners agree revenue sharing is needed to help small-market teams. Hunter was receptive when speaking about revenue sharing Friday, and Stern said it will be part of the next CBA, although it won't be negotiated until after a document is in place.
"There will be a very robust revenue sharing where teams will not be in a position to decline to compete because of money," Stern said. "It's going to be when we have the new collective bargaining agreement, there will be a new revenue-sharing model in place."
Stern's immediate message Saturday, though, was more about money being lost than about revenues.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.