The new NBA collective bargaining agreement (CBA) allows for active players to cash in on sports gambling sponsorships. The tentative agreement goes into effect starting with the 2023-24 season.
That means players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry could soon become sportsbook ambassadors.
Sports betting in California is not live, but it’s worth taking a closer look at how the new CBA affects the teams and players in California.
New NBA CBA allows for sportsbook sponsorships
The NBA and its players association agreed to the a collective bargaining agreement on April 1.
The agreement came with a number of announcements, but lost in the shuffle was the new business categories players can represent — NBA players can now be sponsored by sports gambling ventures.
Starting next season, players can endorse sports betting operators and cannabis companies. Let’s focus on the gambling side.
Prior to this upcoming season, the NBA did not allow active players, coaches, team executives and referees to have any sort of sports betting endorsements.
Shams Charania of The Athletic, Stadium and FanDuel TV touched on an important wrinkle in the new deal one day after the league and its players association agreed to terms. According to the NBA insider, the sportsbook sponsorships will need to have “complete separation from (the) gambling component.”
How this will work, sources say: Players will be able to invest in NBA/WNBA teams via NBPA’s selected Private Equity firm, an unprecedented opportunity in U.S. pro sports – and do endorsement deals with sports betting companies, with complete separation from gambling component. https://t.co/6iMGPPWYgD
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 2, 2023
How that will be enforced has yet to be seen.
The complete CBA document has not been released, and there’s a chance more refining will need to be done, specifically on the gambling sponsorship aspect.
Some non-NBA players boast sportsbook sponsorships
Sportsbook sponsorships among athletes are relatively popular with retired athletes. Finding them with active players is not very common. No active NBA or NFL players have a deal representing any sportsbook operators. But in the MLB and NHL, it’s not entirely unheard of.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon made headlines last year with his ambassador deal with MaximBet. While MaximBet subsequently closed within the year, Blackmon became the first active Major League Baseball player with a sportsbook endorsement. That was one opportunity new to MLB players in 2022 after they reached a new CBA of their own.
Additionally, NHL superstar Connor McDavid boasts a BetMGM sponsorship, too. The Edmonton Oiler star’s deal came before Blackmon’s, making McDavid the first active professional athlete in the four main Northern American sports to have such a deal.
One big question remains…
Could California’s stance on sports betting impact new NBA CBA sportsbook sponsorships? Here’s where things get interesting.
We still don’t have the fine details from the NBA’s new CBA. That will come at a later date. But until then, we can only speculate on the fine print.
It’s yet to be known if these sponsorship deals will only happen for players whose current team resides in a state where sports betting is legal. That could be one option. Or conversely, it could not matter.
But as of right now, California has no plans to legalize sports betting thanks to the defeat of Propositions 26 and 27. Proposition 26 would have legalized retail sports betting at the state’s tribal casinos. Proposition 27 would have legalized mobile sports betting.
Furthermore, 2024 doesn’t look favorable in terms of the new industry in California, either. According to DraftKings CEO Jason Robins, legal sports betting in California is “not a 2024 thing.” Not exactly a great sign.
Casino betting, however, remains alive and well in California.
Who would become a sportsbook ambassador?
Let’s say California’s NBA players have the green light. What players would be likely to become sportsbook ambassadors?
The obvious answers are James and Curry. They’re not only the league’s two biggest stars for the past decade plus, but they’re the state’s largest names.
James boasts just about every major sponsorship under the sun, including Nike, McDonalds, Beats, State Farm, Verizon and others. Curry, meanwhile, is in the same boat. The superstar has deals with Under Armor, Chase, Nissan, Sony and more.
But who else could be in line for a sportsbook endorsement?
Draymond Green is one of the league’s most outspoken players. Not shying away from the spotlight, Green has commented on gambling before. Earlier this season, when people complained on social media about Green not hitting the over for his point total for a game, he clapped back on his podcast.
“I think more of you should credit Vegas for putting the line right there and fault yourself, because you chose the over,” he said on his show.
Other players to keep an eye on could be Anthony Davis, Paul George or De’Aaron Fox. There’s an outside chance that maybe Kawhi Leonard’s fun guy mentality translates to a sportsbook endorsement, too.
Why the new CBA wrinkle makes sense for players
Take one look at the NBA’s history up until the last few years and one thing is clear: the league frowns upon gambling.
Just look at what happened in the mid-2000s when referee Tim Donaghy went to prison for his involvement in a betting scandal. A judge sentenced the former official to 15 months in prison after he was convicted of betting on basketball games that he officiated.
Fast forward to the present day, and the NBA seems to have softened its stance. No, it doesn’t want its players, coaches, officials or anyone involved with the on-court product placing any sort of wagers. But sports betting as a whole is less taboo than it was a decade ago. And the NBA doesn’t want to be the last major sports league to jump on the bandwagon.
The league itself has a deal with DraftKings and FanDuel, making the two operators the co-official sports betting partners of the NBA. Additionally, teams have their own sponsorships naming various operators their respective official sports betting partners.
The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers both have deals with Betway and DraftKings. The Los Angeles Lakers have a deal with FanDuel, and the Sacramento Kings have a partnership with DraftKings.
So it’s not as if California-based NBA teams shied away from any sports gambling ties, despite the state’s stance on the matter.