NEW YORK CITY (AP):  In a move which has stunned the world of professional sports in the United States, World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE:WWE) has entered into an agreement in principle to purchase the National Basketball Association, and all thirty of its constituent teams.  The basketball league, which will be renamed the WBE (World Basketball Entertainment) starting with the 2008-09 season, is in the process of concluding its 2007-2008 season.  The merger was announced at a joint press conference hosted by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, and NBA commissioner David Stern. 


"OK, we admit it.  The NBA was rigged all along.  Rather than continue to pretend otherwise, we have decided to give the fans what they want", Stern announced during the press conference.  Stern noted that the league has long been driven by star players such as Kobe Bryant and ex-NBA star Michael Jordan.  He also claimed that when fundamentally sound teams do well in the playoffs, television ratings suffer.  While Stern agreed with concern that pure basketball fans would be put off by the merger, he noted that market studies indicated they were a small part of the NBA's fan base.

"We learned our lesson from the XFL disaster--the NFL kicked our (expletive)", remarked McMahon.  "Rather than try to launch an XBA, we decided the wisest course of action would simply be to purchase the NBA.  When the Donaghy scandal first broke last year, we thought we had an opening.  So I sat down with David, and he said no.  So I brought (WWE Raw champion) Triple H to the meetings, he kicked David's (expletive), and soon we had ourselves a deal."

Neither the NBA nor WWE would comment on what changes, if any, would be made to the format of basketball competition under the combined league.  According to anonymous sources within the WWE, options being considered include elimination of personal fouls, awarding twenty-five points for field goals made from halfcourt, enclosing of the court in a chain-link metal cage, introduction of a new on-court position reportedly to be called Designated Enforcer, and reductions in the amount of fabric work by team dancers.    Stern emphatically denied rumors that the league would be contracted to only a half dozen teams, noting that somebody has to lose to the Lakers in the early rounds of the playoffs every year.

Many were surprised by the timing of the announcement, coming prior to Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals; a rematch between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, two of the most storied franchises of the pro basketball league.  It was announced that the Finals would continue until its conclusion under the old format.  A press release circulated by the two organizations announced that Stern would remain in charge of the basketball league, though his title would be changed from Commissioner to The Man.   Former NBA star Rick Mahorn would be named as Director of Competition. 

Stern and McMahon both indicated a desire to have the deal completed by the start of the 2008-09 season.  The deal is pending approval by both the NBA Board of Governors and by the Board of Directors of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment; though both bodies are expected to readily endorse the deal.  The merger also must be approved by antitrust regulators in the United States Department of Justice; DOJ officials contacted for this story had no comment.

Opinion among NBA players who were available for interviews varied.  Phoenix Suns' point guard Steve Nash was adamantly opposed to the deal, and vowed to sit out the remainder of his contract were the merger to take place.  Detroit Pistons' forward Rasheed Wallace, on the other hand, was more circumspect.  "If I gotta wear me a cape and all that (expletive), it don't matter none as long as they C. T. C."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.   If and when the merger completes, the combined WWE/NBA would be the largest professional sporting organization in the United States, eclipsing the NFL in both size and revenues.