Report: NBA revenues down 10% for ’19-20, bubble saved $1.5 B

USA Today

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe dropped a bombshell report on the most recent revenue findings for the 2019-20 NBA season Wednesday afternoon.

Between losses in gate revenue ($800 million) and sponsorships ($400 million) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the damage inflicted on the league’s relationship with China after then-Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted in support of free speech protests in Hong Kong during the preseason ($200 million), ESPN reported that the NBA’s revenue dipped 10% to $8.3 billion for the season, citing figures shared with teams by the league office.

The news is made even more significant by the fact that negotiations between the NBA and NBPA to modify the current CBA are ongoing — and scheduled to conclude Oct. 30 at the latest. Buzz has swirled for months that the league would seek to artificially set the 2020-21 salary cap near $109 million (where it sat entering last season). 

But if set based on this season’s Basketball Related Income in a vacuum? ESPN reported the cap line would fall around $90 million.

So suffice it to say teams will be counting on a resolution that lands closer to the former. The ESPN report cited players leaving a higher percentage of their salary in escrow as one way to bridge that gap. Normally, the league places 10 percent of player salaries in escrow, to be distributed amongst teams if the sum of player salaries exceeds the agreed-upon share of the BRI players are slated to receive (per ESPN, roughly 50%) for a given year.


On the bright side: The report said the Disney World bubble recouped $1.5 billion in revenue that might have been lost had the season ended when COVID-19 paused it on March 11. And no positive tests came out of the bubble among players, staff and media.

The Bulls haven’t played since March, are projected to operate over the cap this offseason and own the Nos. 4 and 44 overall picks in the Nov. 18 draft. The offseason and 2020-21 schedule are still being hashed out between the league and players association.

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