NBA Lockout Over; Both Sides Lose

The owners' victory was Pyrrhic

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NEW YORK: The 1998-99 NBA season is back on, sort of -- 50 or so games starting in February. Appropriately, neither side is claiming victory. "Did we blink? I guess we both blinked," players' union head Billy Hunter said Wednesday. Said NBA commissioner David Stern, after predicting that the NBA's Board of Governors would accept the agreement Thursday: "I will say that I am elated that we will be playing basketball this season." The terms of the deal indicate that both sides gained concessions, with the owners eking out a win at the negotiating table. But TIME senior business editor Bill Saporito says that nobody won this game.

"This was a loser on all sides," he says. "The NBA instigated this lockout, and what did it gain? A waste of time, money and goodwill for both the players and the league. There's no great victory here." At least the end was convenient: Hundreds of players were already in town to vote on the league's previous offer -- many of them intent on replacing Hunter, who they felt was being too stubborn -- and they eagerly ratified the new deal in a 179-5 vote. Afterward, players gave the usual homilies about healing rifts and making this up to the fans, but the overarching sentiment was relief. Soon, they'll be playing ball again -- and collecting those monstrous paychecks.