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Chris Paul

NBA Players and Owners close to deal

After years of poor leadership, basketball is bouncing back

Brian Young's picture
Oct 07, 2016

NBA players are reporting to training camp and getting ready for the season, the NBA Players Association (NBPA) and the league are working hard to iron out a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) before a possible contract opt out on December 15th.  Unlike previous years, it is looking like a contract will get agreed on with the players making significant gains.

The NBPA has had a rough time negotiating CBA’s over the last 25 years.  In the 1990’s they faced a lockout in 1995, 1996 and 1998-99 that cost the league nearly half the season.  Players were also forced to accept a deal that limited their salaries, introduced a rookie pay scale and instituted a luxury tax to dissuade any team from offering players higher salaries. Players were again locked out in 2011, missing 16 games and forced to give even more back to the owners. 

Now half way through that CBA, much has changed.  The NBPA, which historically had weak leadership, now is being run by Chris Paul, the son of a CWA member.  Paul has also brought super star talent into the ranks of leadership with LeBron James and Steph Curry serving as Vice Presidents.  The owners also face a different climate.  After years of cutting players’ salaries, many players found outside endorsement deals to supplement their contracts. Many stars are making well over $5 million a season from endorsements, while top rookies have multi-million dollar endorsement deals signed before they even enter the league. This means that the players are not coming to the table begging anymore but are now coming from a position of power. 

Although an agreement hasn’t been reached yet, both sides reported on October 6th that they are hopeful that a fair deal will be agreed on before the deadline.  Some of the specifics that were reported by Yahoo Sports include a higher Rookie wage scale and the expansion of the NBPA to cover players in the NBA Developmental league.  These two issues would be huge wins for the players as it would take care of the players who are in the weakest positions.  Rookie players have a low likelihood of ever making it to their second contract so by increasing the wage scale, players who are in the league for only a few years will be able to increase their earning potential.  By allowing the NBPA to represent the developmental league, the union not only gains players but can add protections that minor leaguers in other sports don’t have.  This is a huge deal for all of professional sports.

It also cannot go without saying that there has been a change in the relationship between the union and the league.  After the 2011 lockout, Commissioner David Stern retired and Adam Silver took his place. At the same time the NBPA replaced their Executive Director Billy Hunter, who was under investigation for nepotism and misuse of funds, with Michele Roberts. When she was hired, the NBAPA became the first players’ union to hire a woman to lead them.  At the time, Roberts said that her goal was to help the players take back their union.  The players have shown over the past few years that the infighting of the past is gone and they are willing to stand together, like when they proposed a boycott during the playoffs if the racist LA Clippers owner was not relieved of his team.

It seems that now that the Players have flexed their muscle, Silver has been willing to work with the union towards the goals that are best for the players, the league and the sport of basketball as a whole.  With just a few more small issues to work out it looks like this labor and management partnership will lead to a new CBA and will prevent the loss of any games in the next few years and a slam dunk for all.

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