The NBA went above and beyond the normal response in attempting to dispel Nate Silver's New York Times study of the league's profitability. Silver used Forbes data to show that the NBA is profitable; the NBA released a lengthy statement calling the data inaccurate and pointing out a number of specific flaws.
In the meantime, the Times published a version of Silver's original study in Wednesday's print edition. It did not include the NBA's rebuttal, which Silver did post to his blog in full. This may have been a deadline issue -- the NBA sent its statement to select media (including SBNation.com) just before 8 p.m. ET Tuesday. Regardless, the NBA was not pleased. From the official NBA P.R. Twitter feed:
NYTimes print piece this AM doesn't give details of NBA response like Times blog from last PM. Despite it being the basis for his article, Nate Silver states Forbes data suffers from a "lack of publicly-available information"
The NBA, of course, can fix this problem itself: release the financial documents.
Redact them to holy Hades for all I care, but there's one cure for darkness, and that is light. And clearly, there's enough darkness here to seriously confuse the situation. We're all walking blind, trying to analyze the issues and potential solutions.
As writers, we have two options: use the data that is available and that we can expect to be reasonably accurate -- I'm not aware that the NBA has put out statements disputing Forbes' data before this week despite new data being released every single year -- or we can take the NBA's word on it. A reputable publication's data, or one of the party's word? Data will always win. Always.
The NBA will retort that the union has seen and agrees that the league's financials are legit. But the union is also limited in what it can say about the proprietary financial information, and union officials have also said on the record that they dispute the league's claims that more than half of the league is struggling.
The union is trying to get a deal done. We as writers and fans are trying to get to the truth. There's a difference, and the union has to pick its battles. As the NBA said in its statement on Silver's piece: the league's financial statements follow generally accepted accounting practices. The question we're after is whether the generally accepted accounting practices still allow a large measure of bulls--t to make its way through the gate.
The NBA's response to this will be that no other business would be asked to do this. That's fine. But the NBA can't then turn around and ask the world to take its word on such crucial issues.