The amount of money the players receive in salary is set, in the existing collective bargaining agreement, at 51 percent of "basketball related income" or BRI. BRI includes just about every revenue stream, from tickets to parking to broadcast rights to concessions, though revenue-sharing payments and expansion fees are excluded. (For a complete rundown, check out Larry Coon's invaluable Salary Cap FAQ site.)
Owners are quick to point out that the BRI formula is based on gross revenue; when they spend additional money to promote ticket sales, etc., they eat into their own share of the pie but the players don't take the same hit.
That's one of the reasons -- according to league accounting -- that NBA teams lost a combined $370 million last season.
The players aren't buying that story, essentially accusing the league of using Enron-esque accounting to generate those figures. They may have a point; after all, if NBA teams are such money pits, why did the Warriors sell for a record $450 million last summer?
The battle over these numbers figures to be one of the biggest and hardest-fought. After all, the owners and players can't decide how to divide the revenue pie until they determine how big a pie they're sharing.