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Sports fans debated the merits of Stephen Curry and LeBron James in living rooms and sports bars across the country Wednesday night, as the Golden State Warriors faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in another heated and hyped game of the NBA finals.
But off the court, an equally important deliberation is going on: a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for players. And with TV ratings raking in cash, prospects for an amicable agreement are much brighter than in the past, said Michele Roberts, executive director, National Basketball Players Association.
"The game's been growing exponentially for years, and since the last collective bargaining agreement, gate receipts have gone way up, sponsorships have gone way up ... viewership is way up," Roberts said Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street. "
One example of the bull market for basketball is a new TV deal, which will bring in $24 billion over the next nine years, Roberts said. As viewership increases, so has international interest for games, especially in markets like Africa and Australia. It's become much more lucrative to be an owner, as the value of the franchises has increased 240 percent since 2011, Roberts said.
"We're negotiating from a place where everyone's happy, everyone's making more money," Roberts said. "That is why I think we'll be able to get a deal done without too much disruption of the game."
Player salaries, though, have only increased 15 percent since 2011, Roberts said, with caps that make the process more complicated than a traditional employment agreement. Indeed, Curry's contract, for instance, could be considered quite the bargain, though according to the NBA, player compensation from the 2010-11 season to the 2016-17 season will have increased by 55 percent.
"I expect we'll be able to get a new CBA in record time," Roberts said. "When we were negotiating the last time, the game's economic health was not nearly as good as it is now. So it's not quite the same level of pressure that the owners may have had or the players may have had."
Disclosure: CNBC's sister company NBC Sports competes with ABC, TNT and ESPN.