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Magic Johnson: Contraction Might Improve the NBA

Oct 24, 2010 – 11:08 PM
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Brett Pollakoff

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David Stern spent a portion of his season tip-off conference call with the media last week discussing the in-progress labor negotiations, which in the very worst case might lead to a lockout ahead of the 2011-12 season. Part of the conversation involved the subject of contraction, a sensitive one not only for the small market cities who might be in jeopardy of losing a team, but also for the league at large when considering its overall viability and growth as both a sport and a profitable enterprise.

"The issue of contraction is one that has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining with the players, whether if there are markets where there may not be buyers for teams that are looking to be sold, that raises the issue of contraction," Stern said. "But it's a sensitive subject for me because I've spent 27 years in this job working very hard not only to maintain all of our teams but along the way add a few.

"I think that's a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what's the optimum way to present our game, and are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment. I'm not spending a lot of time on it."


Stern may not be spending a lot of time on the subject of contraction, but that fact that it was even addressed makes it a fairly hot topic around the league and among those who follow it. Magic Johnson, who recently sold his minority share in the Lakers, certainly falls into one of those categories. And at a charity event in Florida on Saturday, he gave his thoughts on contraction.

Somewhat surprisingly, Johnson seemed to be in favor of it.

"How much would it hurt the league if we lost teams? It wouldn't hurt it. It might make it better," Johnson said. "... I think if you take away a couple teams, the talent level goes up and the league will only benefit, so I don't see a problem with that. We just hope that we put a good product out on the court, and that's the key."

Everyone's entitled to their opinion, and Magic is a Hall-of-Famer, both as a player and as a businessman. But it is a little odd that a former player would be in favor of contraction, since it ultimately eliminates players' jobs -- whether the quality of competition is improved or not.
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