Why I love Lebron James, Brandon Roy and support the NBA Players Union
|July 26, 2011||Posted by brucepoinsette under Musings|
As the NBA lockout continues we get a real glimpse of what the league is all about. The owners want to make a profit and the players want to protect themselves. It’s a business.
No player seems to understand this more than LeBron James. He has been unapologetic going about his career on his own terms while milking every dollar possible. James embraced the “King James” moniker, became the Nike poster boy and built himself up as a hero in Cleveland. When he got the chance to leave he didn’t just switch jerseys “gracefully.” He had the balls to make a one hour TV special out of it while picking up a few dollars for the Boys and Girls Club along the way. James has gladly accepted the villain role, knowing he can make more money as the heel in a big city than the hero in a tragic sports town like Cleveland. His ads continue to get major play and even when the Dallas Mavericks beat his Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the top story was him. While some might find this arrogant, it’s a brilliant business strategy. Life in the NBA is relatively short and capitalizing on all the money it can produce is simply intelligent.
No matter how much fans may say they love you, the truth is that NBA players and pro athletes in general are well paid race horses. As long as they can play, entertain the fans and sell merchandise then it’s all good. However, as soon as they suffer a career threatening injury they might as well be euthanized to some fans and sports critics especially.
For example, people kill me when they say Brandon Roy should retire. Up until last season, he was an untouchable hero here in Portland. Roy was drafted even though people knew he had a history of knee problems. Nonetheless he gave his all to the Trailblazers and won Rookie of the Year, followed by three consecutive appearances in the NBA All Star game. Portland was practically Roy’s city until last year when his knees caught up to him and he had to have surgery during the season. He wasn’t able to come back to pre-surgery form and came off the bench for the rest of the year.
It was funny to see how fickle fans got when Roy was no longer the dominate player he used to be. Never mind that Dwayne Wade and Chris Paul have had injury plagued seasons and come back to form. Everyone and their mother proclaimed Roy was done. Since he was paid a max contract, few fans thought we could trade him and some even hoped he might retire. How stupid does that sound when Roy is slated to make nearly $15 mil next year, followed by $16 mil, $17 mil and $19 mil in the final year of his contract? Just having his presence would help the team in the worst case scenario, since Roy is not the Eddy Curry type, who would spend his max contract sitting at home, eating Cheetos.
Although if he did, who could blame him. NBA players’ careers are based on production and potential. Greg Oden has been a disappointment but he’ll continue to get paid as long as he has the potential to be great. Likewise, John Salmons will continue to get paid if he keeps finding ways to perform during contract years and/or each time he is traded mid-season.
This is part of the reason for the current lockout. Many NBA teams are losing money and don’t want to pay players if they aren’t guaranteed a return on their investment. Although I’d like to feel sorry for NBA owners, who could really benefit from revenue sharing throughout the league, I don’t see them in bankruptcy nearly as much as former players (*cough* Antoine Walker *cough*).
The NBA, like other major professional sports, is an entertainment business. It’s ridiculous to ask a player to make a number of concessions while the owner continues to make just as much, if not more money off of his labor. For a player, loyalty to anyone above yourself is practically suicidal.
I had the privilege of spending most of my high school years in the Hoop Dreams basketball program. It allowed me to work with high school, college and professional players while witnessing just how much work it took to succeed at each level. Fans may only see the games but the fact is that players work too hard to risk their livelihood on the fickleness of fans and the will of cutthroat business owners.
For this reason I can’t help but support the NBA Players’ Union during the current lockout. Many NBA players come from less privileged backgrounds and colleges do very little to prepare them for life outside of basketball.
Professional basketball won’t solve these problems but as long as it provides an avenue for success and supporting families, then the players should get the league for every penny. If the NBA owners won’t pay then ones in Europe or elsewhere around the globe will because there will always be a market for watching the world’s top athletes.