Will players cave — like LeBron?
Nov 4, 2011 at 1:00a ET
Let’s hope the NBA power agents and their clients are not bluffing this time. Let’s hope there’s real substance to the decertification movement reportedly threatened by as many as 50 players, including several All-Stars.
Let’s hope the latest agent-driven ploy for lockout negotiating leverage isn’t a reenactment of the much-ballyhooed World All-Star Classic.
You don’t remember the World Tour? It was all the rage in NBA media circles in late October. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and countless other big names were all supposed to play. It was supposed to kick off this past Sunday in Puerto Rico.
And then, just four days before the tip, James, Anthony and Paul pulled out of the trip. We haven’t heard a (public) word about the World All-Star Classic since.
Poof. According to people in the know, David Stern and NBA owners used their collective business muscle to make the tour go away. The disappearance of the tour makes me question the resolve of the players and the influence of the power agents to stand and fight David Stern.
It’s the fourth quarter of the lockout, and the players remind me, Stern and NBA owners of their real leader — LeBron James.
David Stern just blew past aging, slow-footed NBPA president Derek Fisher, and King James is once again standing flat-footed, uninvolved as Stern drives to the cup for the game-winning basket. King James played hot potato with the World All-Star Classic and now he’s going to sit out possible decertification.
The NBA lockout is all about respect — a general lack of respect for NBA players.
Ownership doesn’t respect the players. Fans don’t. And neither do the media.
King James — the league’s biggest star and most talented player — symbolizes what we don’t respect about NBA players. He’s spoiled, irresponsible and not nearly as tough as his tats, menacing dunks and mean-mug stares would have us believe.
James is the inspiration for Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert and other hardline owners determined to strip power and wealth from players.
You do remember King James and his supporters running their mouths about how “The Decision” was all about players, particularly black athletes, taking control of their careers and exercising power that made the white power structure uncomfortable?
The lockout is the predictable backlash from that discomfort. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Guess who isn’t around to fight the fight he started?
The decertification threat is a movement to support NBPA executive director Billy Hunter’s stand on a 52-48 basketball-related-income (BRI) split. Stern and the owners have bludgeoned the players association on every other issue. The system that allowed James, Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in Miami has been destroyed in these negotiations. The BRI fight is a war for a modicum of respect. The players want a fig leaf to cover themselves as they exit the negotiations. They’ve already agreed to a 5 percent cut in BRI.
Look, I’m like most everyone else, I struggle respecting 50 to 60 percent of NBA players. Too many of them carry themselves like rappers. The players don’t understand that the business model for sports is completely different from the business model for music/rap. Foolish, counterculture rebelliousness works in the music industry. It doesn’t fly in the “patriotic” sports world. One reason the NFL trounces the NBA economically ($9 billion to $4 billion) is because NFL marketing wraps itself in patriotism. The NFL has sold the myth that watching football is akin to joining the Marines. You can’t sell that myth when the Denver Nuggets take the court night after night tatted up like the Alcatraz intramural team.
The difference between me and most fans and sportswriters is that I desperately want to respect pro athletes in general and basketball players in particular. I spent the first 22 years of my life as an athlete and dreaming of being a professional football player. I’ll never give up on athletes.
I’m 100 percent on the players’ side in this labor dispute. They deserve to be compensated fairly. This era that we’re in globally of the rich fixing their problems by stealing from the less rich infuriates me. I’m not asking you (readers of this column) to feel sorry for millionaire basketball players. I’m asking you to recognize that the same thing that is happening to the basketball players is and could be happening to you. Greedy, irresponsible business owners/bankers are fixing their problems by unfairly squeezing you.
America is dying because of its refusal to fix the structural problems that are causing our decay.
NBA ownership has unaddressed structural problems (a lack of true revenue sharing). Rather than address those issues, ownership would rather rob its players. What’s really sad is that most of the media — especially those fearful that Stern might exercise his considerable influence over their employment — are cheerleading the theft.
This week, I’ve listened to some of my peers in the media insinuate/suggest my perspective on the NBA lockout is fueled by my support and/or relationship with Billy Hunter. The accusation is preposterous. I’m a solo act. I follow whatever truths I unearth wherever they lead. I have a 20-year resume filled with blown-up bridges that prove I’m no one’s puppet.
I’m a free-thinking, free-speaking rebel. When I sell out or decide to shill for some newsmaker (Jeff George), I’ll freely admit it in this column.
I’m pro-players, pro-Billy Hunter, pro-decertification and anti-Derek Fisher because that’s where the truths I’ve discovered lead me at this moment. Provided with new, credible, enlightening information and perspective, I could easily flip flop.
Would I prefer to see this lockout end quickly and return to on-court action? Absolutely. But I’m not solely an NBA writer/columnist. I’ll be fine if the players stand strong and blow up this season to fight for what is right. I would be proud if they did. Standing up for yourself is the first step in developing the courage to stand up for others.
Someone tell LeBron James that Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce and Dwight Howard are fighting a fight King James picked.