Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Should LeBron Try To Save The NBA's Players Union?

Illustration for article titled Should LeBron Try To Save The NBAs Players Union?

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that LeBron James is "considering" running for president of the NBA Players Association, which he says "is in bad shape right now." But should LeBron hitch himself to something that will never operate in his best interests?

One of the points made repeatedly by people who obsessively covered the 2011-12 NBA lockout, other than "Billy Hunter is fucking everything up and should be fired" (he eventually was), was that the union, then led by successful journeyman Derek Fisher, was always going to be in hock to its majority of non-stars. Those are the NBA players who benefit from draft age limits preventing 18-year-olds like LeBron from coming in and stealing their jobs, who profit most from salary floors and guaranteed minimums, and who need the protection and resources of a larger body to get them the best possible shake on the market.


LeBron needs none of that. In his perfect world, a team could pay him a lot more than the $19 million he'll make in 2013-14, because there would be no artificial limit on what he's worth. He and other superstars might be more likely to form superteams (and be more able to gun for championships) and try to run together for years if they didn't have to take less to do it. All of the things a union is supposed to provide—the protections for every laborer, no matter how humble—are things that LeBron's talents ensure he will always get.

So if he wants to take on the effort to remake a union that badly needs it, he'll be taking it on for his fellow players more than himself. It would be a self-abnegating move that is very much in keeping with LeBron's unselfish play and familial approach to his entourage, but it would also be a huge commitment for the best player on Earth. After Patrick Ewing served as NBAPA president from 1997 to 2001, he was followed by Michael Curry, Antonio Davis, and Fisher, a star-free trio.

There's precedent for stars both leading the NBAPA and winning on the court: Isiah Thomas, perhaps not quite as savvy a businessman as LeBron, won both his titles while NBAPA president, and the first three NBAPA presidents—Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, and Oscar Robertson—all won titles during their tenures. Piloting the NBAPA and pursuing a title might, however, have been easier prior to the massive growth and two lockouts that have reshaped the league in the last 15 years.

What LeBron does is ultimately his prerogative alone, and it likely wouldn't be any less noble or valuable for him to be a vocal NBAPA member with an ally in the president's seat. Sure would be cool to see a titan go out of his way to help the little guys, though.



Photo: David J. Phillip/AP

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