If every player had money on the line in every game based upon a victory, you’d see some unbelievable competition. Sports and team concept would change dramatically.
Of course "per-victory" contracts are possible now, but most incentive clauses are based on individual performance or a victory or playoff threshold. Why?
1. Star players might injure themselves too frequently if they try hard every game. Their value to the league involves an external benefit which they do not internalize when deciding how much injury to risk. Plus an owner wants them to conserve their energy for the playoffs or for critical opponents.
2. Most fans don’t know the difference between a good game and a bad one. They want only to see the stars, and maybe a few slam dunks. So why impose more pecuniary risk on the players?
3. Players already try hard on offense. Making them play tough defense would deaden the game. This doesn’t explain why a single team doesn’t use per-victory bonuses, but it does suggest there will be no league pressure to do so.
4. Per-victory compensation will lead the players to blame each other too much for particular losses. Team morale and thus team productivity will decline.
5. Incentives of fame and approbation already impose this incentive structure, and in a more powerful way than money could do.
6. When bargaining over a contract, a player would reveal negative information about his self-estimated talent level by accepting high-powered incentives. If you cut a deal with big bonuses, the team must think your low-effort state of output is pretty crummy.
I put weight on all of these, but on #6 least. Of course this relates to the general question of why firms don’t use more high-powered incentives. Could the lesson be that fewer business variables matter than you might think? (A related question is why don’t more firms use idea futures.)
Would Rick Barry’s idea improve the NBA? Comments are open…