The NBA Players Association is moving on from the tenures of Billy Hunter as executive director and Derek Fisher as president with the election of Los Angeles Clippers superstar guard Chris Paul as the new president and face of the union.
Paul served as vice president under Fisher, and will now take over the top spot. A new executive director has yet to be named.
In the wake of negotiations that led to the new CBA in December, 2011, a CBA widely seen as a victory for the owners as the players lost a significant amount of basketball related income and new, more punitive luxury taxes were installed, rifts in the Union were revealed. Billy Hunter was fired amid allegations of nepotism and financial shenanigans, and has since filed suit against the Union and former president Fisher.
Fisher himself was accused of selling out the players in order to get an agreement that many rank and file members were not happy with. He has since stepped down.
It will be up to Paul to right the ship and figure out how to get the players on the front foot. One of the failures of recent negotiations for the players has been their inability to fight back against owner claims of massive losses. The question during the latest negotiations was always how much would the players give back. Faced with a fractious membership and a constant rear guard action that was merely trying to limit losses, the Union wound up giving up what likely amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of this CBA.
An interesting aspect of Paul's elevation is that it's the first time since Patrick Ewing's term from 1997-2001 that a superstar heads the Union. Since then, it has been Michael Curry, Antonio Davis, and Fisher. In recent negotiations, the Union has always favored the rank and file at the expense of the superstars. Examples include agreeing to maximum salaries, insisting on the retention of the mid-level exception, and demanding room and apron exceptions in the most recent agreement.
The result of recent CBA's is that a handful of players at the very top are pretty significantly underpaid. What would happen if LeBron James was on the market with no maximum? He would certainly make a lot more than he does now; Michael Jordan earned $33M in salary in 1998.
It isn't surprising that recent agreements have favored the rank and file; there are a lot more of them then there are underpaid superstars.
It is worthwhile to ask whether the election of a superstar player will change this focus for the Union. Maximum salaries were a significant sticking point during the 1998-99 lockout when Patrick Ewing was president. That was also the first introduction of maximums, something that the current generation appears to take for granted. Will this change under Paul's leadership? Will maximum salaries and the percentages that define them become an issue for the Union in the next negotiation?
I'll be very interested to hear from Paul about his vision for the future of the NBPA.