LeBron James considers top post in NBA players union
OPINION - It’s clear that James doesn’t just measure success in on-court accolades...
It was never LeBron James’ intention to just be a basketball player.
From his proclamation that he wanted to be a “global icon,” to his savvy business acumen off the court with investments in everything from soccer teams to headphones, it’s clear that James doesn’t just measure success in on-court accolades.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that James recently said that he’d consider a run at the recently opened position of President of the NBA Players Association. The NBAPA is in desperate need of new leadership after 2011’s lockout (which many believe the players lost), and the scandal involving Billy Hunter and union funds. Having James as the President would be a major coupe for the union. Never has a player as recognizable as James been the leader of the NBAPA, and the last truly noteworthy one was Patrick Ewing 15 years ago.
“I just think the union is going backwards, and it’s not in a good place right now. I think my voice could be huge in that situation.”
Getting James may already be an afterthought though. A USA Today report later said James had already reconsidered due to time constraints.
“Miami Heat star LeBron James decided he will not run for president or vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, a person familiar with James’ decision told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about James’ plans.”
King James for President
James has yet to rule himself out publicly, so it’s not officially dead yet, but at this point, it would be a surprise if he took the job. He certainly has a full plate, with the bevy of endorsements, his other off-court investments, working to three-peat as NBA champion, and generally being the best basketball player on the planet. But if he could manage the extra responsibility, this fit would be a perfect marriage for both parties.
James’ NBA contract currently pays him $19 million, which actually makes him grossly underpaid. The Miami Heat has seen its value increase exponentially each year since James signed with them. Realistically, if there were no salary cap, a team would probably offer James $75 million-plus easily just on the television dollars, endorsements, merchandise and seat sales he would bring alone. With the little power James has as simply a union member rather than running the show, I’m sure he feels that he doesn’t currently have a big enough voice in labor negotiations.
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Also with all due respect to Derek Fisher – the former union head after Hunter was removed – James voice would’ve certainly rung louder with fans. Anything James says makes news. Every word fans hang on – for better or worse. When a major NBAPA issue arises, James would’ve gotten the casual fan to take notice, simply because of who he is.
Learning the business of the NBA
NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse told CBS Sports’ Ken Berger that James’ comments about the state of the players union were “misinformed,” and that he hadn’t “had any dialogue with anybody since the All-Star break.”
Stackhouse, an executive committee member of the players association, proves James may be in over his head or simply just has a lot to learn if he’s up to it. But we’ve seen James overcome just about any obstacle in his path.
His considering the top post shows that James truly cares about the NBA. Michael Jordan famously stuck to the script when it came to any issues that could be seen as controversial. The only groups he spoke for were ones that signed his checks.
James would have been speaking for all of his fellow NBA colleagues, and working on their behalf to ensure they got what they deserved. That’s lofty work for someone that easily out-earns everyone else in the league (except maybe Kobe Bryant). Jordan, and not even Bryant, could ever say they did that.
Going back to James goal of being a global icon…he has just about reached that status. But at 28 years old, he still has some resume building to do. President of the union would’ve given him some much-needed leadership skills in the boardroom. When his basketball skills finally do leave him, he’d have formed new skills that would’ve suited him well for his post-career.
If recent reports are true, James probably won’t be taking the position. But I hope he reconsiders, and if not this time, rethinks taking the position in the future. It’d be good for the league and great for him. And it would continue to show that the talk of being a global icon was legitimate.
Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter @StefenLovelace