As was first reported by ESPN, LeBron James has confirmed that he is indeed mulling a bid to run for the presidency of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the union that represents NBA players. While star players in the past have served as president of the union, the fact that the Miami Heat forward is considering such a action is truly indeed surprising.
There is no question that the NBPA is in dire shape and need of serious and committed leadership given how former executive director Billy Hunter used the association as a means to allow family to conduct business and also how previous president Derek Fisher in the end has been left with egg on his face given his actions. Whoever takes other will no doubt have to clean up the previous mess and restore some confidence amongst it’s members towards the association.
If LeBron were to run and be elected as president of the NBPA, it would not be the first time that a star player would serve as NBPA president when he was at the height of his playing career. Previous presidents in similar situations to LeBron’s at the time of NBPA presidency include Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing. Yet the NBA, in which those star players served as NBPA presidents, is a far different one from the NBA of 2013.
While I appreciate and applaud LeBron for recognizing and wanting to be involved with the union on a much deeper level, the fact of the matter is that he should not run for NBPA presidency despite his sincerest and best intentions. The main reason LeBron should not run is because he can and will not be able to properly represent the interests of the majority of the players given that he is a superstar player.
One of the issues when the players were locked out back in 2011, was that it was superstar players who pushed the NBPA and it’s president Derek Fisher to settle on a deal which would remain and retain benefits that superstar players like LeBron could enjoy, and did nothing to improve the “middle-class” of NBA players. After all, these superstar players just wanted resolution in order to no longer lose game checks.
The fact of the matter is that in the current sporting climate, a player like LeBron cannot and is not able to represent the interests of these middle class players, a group which are the majority of the NBPA and have been most squeezed out in the latest collective bargaining agreement. These are the players whom would most benefit by negotiating with the NBA on raising the age limit on entering and playing in the league.
How can LeBron be expected to adequately go in and negotiate with the league about raising the age limit entry when he himself benefited from there being no such limit other than you had to be a graduating senior out of high school. Also, because LeBron is a superstar player, his ability to make a lot of money will never be inhibited or diminished. This puts him at odds with the majority of those who he would lead and make it harder for ownership to take him that seriously when talk of salary limits and salary caps comes up.
While LeBron James would certainly be a better NBPA president than say Patrick Ewing, there is a reason why a superstar player now days should not be president of the NBPA. In the same reason that the president of the Screen Actors Guild is not a star actor, a superstar player is not and cannot be expected to adequately or properly represent the interests of the majority of those in the union.
While it is nice and admirable for LeBron to show that he wants to be a leader, the consequence of this eagerness is that he could end up being more of an impediment as opposed to a positive by serving as NBPA president. As was seen with the last lockout, giving superstar NBA players a voice and say, no matter how big, ends up undermining any potential benefits the rest of his non-superstar colleagues could receive had he stayed out of the way.