There has been a very large, very expensive thorn sticking in the side of the NBA since the 1976 merger with the American Basketball Association. When the two leagues combined, the NBA only absorbed four of the ABA’s seven teams — Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets, Denver Nuggets — leaving the other three to be lost in history. One of those teams was the St. Louis Spirits, whose owners, brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna, still wanted a piece of the new NBA.
They turned down a one-time payout of $3 million in favor of what is now known as the “Greatest Sports Deal of All Time” — a 1/7th share of the television revenues of the four ABA-turned-NBA teams. The kicker: the terms of the deal required the revenue sharing to go on in perpetuity (or, as we like to say, FOR-EV-ERRRR). With the growth of the league from the mid-1980s and beyond, that television revenue ballooned to levels completely unforseen by the NBA at the time. As such, it’s estimated the sweet deal has netted the Silnas $300 million. Needless to say, the NBA has been trying to weasel its way out for decades.
Well, we now know the asking price to get out of the deal: $500 million. The astronomical figure comes at a time when the league is beginning negotiations for its next television contract, which is set to expire in 2016. It’s expected to be, by far, the most lucrative in the league’s history, and the NBA doesn’t want any of it going to two brothers who haven’t owned a piece of a professional basketball team for nearly four decades.
In addition, it’s appropriate that the bizarre arrangement comes to an end in the last month of David Stern’s tenure as commissioner, as he’s probably had many sleepless nights over the last thirty years trying to figure out ways to get out of the deal that don’t involving missing persons reports.