The NBA was the first professional sports league to suspend its season due to coronavirus concerns. The league shut down on March 11, partway through the season with months left to play. Now, it appears as though the season will end up being canceled altogether and players may have to return a chunk of their salaries to team owners. It's a simple fact that the NBA is losing money with every day that passes without basketball games being played. Teams signed players expecting a certain amount of income with which to pay their multi-million salaries. Now, that revenue is not coming in but players are owed the money their contracts stipulated. While owners and players have discussed the situation, there is not yet a plan of how to work this out. One idea that is possible is a salary refund/reduction.
The NBPA, the players' union, clarified that any compensation deal put together by the NBA will include refunds on NBA contracts for the part of the season that has been suspended. Some players get their checks on a six-month cycle, meaning they get more money per pay period but do not get paid during the off-season. Other contracts call for being paid on a 12-month plan. This will be hard on the players on a six-month cycle as well as those who have been given full or partial payment of their contracts upfront.
It is possible that players who are under contract that run past this season could be spared having to refund half the season's salary because owners could recoup the funds from this season over the life of the player's contract. Upcoming free agents in the last year of their contact could be asked to write checks to NBA owners for the salary they received upfront. Players who received advanced include Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant and Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin.
The NBA is allowed to retain about 1% of players' paychecks for each canceled game according to the current collective bargaining agreement. The funds are recoverable via force majeure – an unforeseeable event like a natural disaster or pandemic. The NBA and players previously discussed a plan to withhold salaries and place funds in a league escrow account if games are canceled.
It is possible that the league may try to get back 50% of players' remaining salaries for the 2019-2020 season. Typically, the last check for players on the six-month cycle is in early July. Agents will also be affected by any salary refunds as they will not get their commission on that money. Oklahoma Thunder player Chris Paul is president of the NBPA and he indicated that players are aware of this potential situation. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said any decision about salary return is still several weeks away.
It appears that the regular season for the NBA is over. Public health experts do not know when it will be safe for professional sports to resume.