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<br />Real pain from real people as NBA rift hardens

  • Written by Kelley Evans
  • Published in News
With the NBA disturbingly close to canceling the entire season, the population teetering in harm’s way is the business owners and their employees who count on NBA patrons. Protracted negotiations over NBA compensation and contracts are reverberating at gut level for elements of the general public, with some dubbing the fight “The Billionaires vs. The Millionaires.”

With the NBA disturbingly close to canceling the entire season, the population teetering in harm’s way is the “dollarnaires” – business owners and their employees who count on every dollar they earn to thrive in a declining economy, and NBA patrons.  

For sure, NBA players and owners are losing millions as the NBA stalemate drags on with the season in tow. Meanwhile, businesses in downtown Memphis have lost significant revenue and stand to lose even more. Players have declined the offer that NBA Commissioner David Stern said would be his final and they have now disbanded their union.

Where is the meaning in it all?

Well, it means bars will not host NBA nights.

There will be no “meeting-up” at Bleu Restaurant in the Westin Hotel directly across the street from the FedExForum.  

Spindini, a popular restaurant on Main Street will not see the likes of NBA players and fans that have dinner there after games.  

Sushi bistro Blue Fin’s hostesses will not escort NBA coaches and players to their favorite tables.  

Alfred’s will not have a plethora of NBA fans wearing Beale Street blue listening to music.

Nor will the people who live around the arena be able to bank a few dollars by allowing fans to park on their property.

Twenty-two-year-old Kimberly Henderson frequents many Grizzlies games. She has a dedicated parking spot one block away from the FedExForum.  

“There is a nice lady who allows me to park in her driveway on game night for free,” Henderson said.  “She watches my vehicle and she makes sure I’m in my car and safe after the games. Seeing her over the past five years has become part of my routine. I bring her dinner at times and I check in on her and her family.  

“I also bring her game trinkets from the FedExForum. Now I’ll just have to drive by to make sure she’s doing OK.  But I’ll miss the fun we had on game nights. It’s ruined the mood.”

Concerned about the possibility of having to account for millions of dollars to make bond  payment obligations, the City Council via resolution has positioned itself to sue the NBA and the Grizzlies. When things are working right, the payments are covered by funds that flow from games at the FedExForum.

A letter from Memphis City Council Chairman Myron Lowery (dated October 19) to Memphis Grizzlies Owner Michael Heisley reads, “It is a precautionary move to protect the citizens of Memphis. When the City Council approved funding for the construction of the FedExForum over 11 years ago, we promised the citizens of Memphis that we would not raise property taxes to pay for the arena.”

Since then, other cities have followed Memphis’s trail.

Also facing potential losses are downtown hotels such as the Westin that house NBA players and welcome NBA fans that live in surrounding areas and pour into the Memphis area during big games.

On the flipside are operations such as The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts and the Orpheum Theater, which could benefit by reaping more dates upon which to book concerts and other attractions that they might otherwise forgo, not wanting to compete with the NBA.

For concert promoter, movie producer and Grizzlies season ticket holder Julius Lewis, there is no alternative to an NBA game, especially with the season the Grizzlies had last year.

“You can’t beat the atmosphere or the excitement. No entertainer on stage can beat that.  If people aren’t in the stands, people are in bars or at home watching. The Grizzlies have created an ‘it’ rivalry with the Oklahoma City Thunder. You can compete with that.”

Pending a resolution, the pain – not the games – will go on.

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