Sports

Pacers star Victor Oladipo: If the NBA doesn't return, players risk losing money

Key Points
  • The Pacers star said logistics would determine if he felt comfortable with the NBA resuming its season. 
  • If the NBA does cancel its season due to Covid-19; "We would lose money, period. It's a simple as that," Oladipo said.
Victor Oladipo #4 of the Indiana Pacers drives down court during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jason Miller | Getty Images

Whether the National Basketball Association will resume its suspended season is still uncertain. But the consequence of not continuing is unmistakable.

"We would lose money, period," Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo told CNBC in an interview. "It's as simple as that."

And it's a fear of massive revenue losses, which could cost the NBA an estimated $1 billion, that keeps league and players hopeful about a possible return, which Oladipo, 28, is staying prepared for during the hiatus. 

"At the end of the day, I'll be ready. Whatever happens," he said. 

After becoming the first major North American sports league to suspend games due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NBA and its players union continue to discuss outlines of return. 

According to a report from Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, top NBA stars including Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard and Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry held a conference call to pledge support for games to resume. The Yahoo Sports report follows another conference call with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on May 8.

On the call, Silver spoke with the National Basketball Players Association to discuss concerns surrounding resuming while warning players of the health risk and the financial impact the stoppage will have on collective bargaining. Silver also upheld the message that games will most likely be played without fans for the foreseeable future as a vaccine for Covid-19 is still months or even years away. 

Though plans to resume appear to be gaining more momentum, some NBA execs and player agents are against the league resuming, instead urging Silver to cancel the season, calculate the losses and plan for next year. Former NBA stars like Shaquille O'Neal and Reggie Miller have also called on the NBA to cancel the season.

Asked if he thought the NBA should restart, Oladipo said: "It depends on what the logistics are. It depends on how we would do things. I feel like the league would do what's best for the players at the end of the day."

According to a person familiar with the NBPA discussions, health and safety remain players' top priority with any return. But they're also concerned about the future of the CBA, as their salaries are tied to a percentage of league revenue (basketball-related income).

Players were informed that attendance makes up 40% of NBA revenue. So, if games are played with no fans, NBA revenue will take a huge blow whether it resumes its season or not, triggering a rollback of player salaries.

That will impact future contracts for players like Oladipo, who is in the third year of a four-year $85 million extension he signed in 2017. Valuations of contracts will drop due to a decline in revenue, so players would receive less on future deals. Oladipo is set to hit free agency in 2021.

Oladipo, who played just 13 games this season after returning from a ruptured quad tendon, credited the NBPA for keeping players informed, but added, "Luckily, I don't have to be the one to make the decision."

The Pacers, which are owned by billionaire Herb Simon, chairman of the Simon Property Group, are currently sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. So, if the NBA were to resume and went straight to a postseason format in either Orlando, Florida, or Las Vegas, the Pacers would qualify. 

Oladipo, a notable investor who has ties to companies like Beyond Meat, made his media rounds to discuss a new documentary, "Basketball County: In The Water." The film details the backstory of Prince George's County, Maryland, producing NBA players such as Oladipo, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook and WNBA star Marissa Coleman of the New York Liberty.

Durant's company, Thirty Five Ventures, partnered with ViacomCBS-owned Showtime to produce "Basketball County," which will premiere on the channel Friday.

"I think it's showing how a small area can affect a game in a very monumental way," said Oladipo, who is credited as an executive producer of the film. "How a small county can produce so many pros; I think that's special in itself.

"It's a great thing that we're doing for the city, so I'm happy for the county," Oladipo said.

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