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Capping the Competition: An Analysis of the NBA's Player Salary Cap

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The NBA operates under a unique system with both forms of the salary cap. The league has a team salary cap that sets a limit that teams can spend on their entire roster. The NBA has a soft cap and

The NBA operates under a unique system with both forms of the salary cap. The league has a team salary cap that sets a limit that teams can spend on their entire roster. The NBA has a soft cap and a luxury tax system, meaning if teams spend over a determined amount, they are taxed for the salaries in excess. The league also has a player salary cap. The 1999 NBA collective bargaining agreement first introduced the individual player salary cap in the league. This cap sets a limit on what the best players can earn, otherwise known as the maximum contract. In an economic system with a soft team cap, the introduction of the player salary cap has important implications. The stated outcome of such a salary cap is to improve competitive balance and better distribute star players throughout the league. This study evaluated the 1990-2015 regular seasons to measure the impact of the player salary cap on competitive balance, the distribution of team payrolls, and the dispersion of star players. In accordance with the Rottenberg's invariance hypothesis, the player salary cap has hurt the players and benefited the owners by redistributing income from one party to the other, without impacting the distribution of talent in the league. The rule change has not affected competitive balance, while team payrolls have converged and star players have become more dispersed throughout the league. These changes hurt the league overall, preventing the maximization of revenues. Despite this inefficiency, the chance of the league moving to eliminate the player salary cap is low.

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Date Created
2016-12