The NBA's thrilling season came with a high price tag.
LeBron James' move to Miami and Dirk Nowitzki's title in Dallas couldn't hide a simple fact: Owners insisted they were losing money, perhaps $300 million this season, and weren't interested in subsidizing a system they felt guaranteed they'd keep losing more.
So the NBA will lock out its players, a long-expected move that puts the 2011-12 season in jeopardy and comes as the NFL is trying to end its own work stoppage.
The latest lockout began today at 12:01 a.m. It will last until player and owners can agree on a collective bargaining agreement, one owners demand must give all teams a chance to profit.
"We had a great year in terms of the appreciation of our fans for our game. It just wasn't a profitable one for the owners, and it wasn't one that many of the smaller market teams particularly enjoyed or felt included in," Commissioner David Stern said. "The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete."
Despite a three-hour meeting Thursday and a final proposal from the players — which NBA leaders said would have raised average player salaries to $7 million in the sixth year of the deal — the sides could not close the enormous gulf between their positions.
"The problem is that there's such a gap in terms of the numbers, where they are and where we are, and we just can't find any way to bridge that gap," union chief Billy Hunter said.
All league business is officially on hold, starting with the free agency period that would have opened today.
And teams will be prohibited from having any contact with their players, most of whom won't be paid until a deal is done but insist they'll hang in anyway.
"We're going to stand up for what we have to do, no matter how long it's going to take," Thunder star Kevin Durant told The Associated Press. "No matter how long the lockout's going to take, we're going to stand up. We're not going to give in."