NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James is about to play a new power position — vice president.
The Cavaliers star was unanimously elected first vice president of the National Basketball Players Association on Friday, giving the game’s top player a leadership role within a union set to square off in the future with the league’s owners over revenue.
James was elected during the union’s annual meeting as part of All-Star weekend at a hotel near Times Square. A person familiar with James’ election said Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul, the union’s president, had urged the four-time MVP to accept a prominent role within the union. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity before union executive director Michele Roberts announced the election, said James wanted to be deeply involved in future collective bargaining with the league.
Roberts could hardly wait to announce James’ addition.
“We have a new vice president who was elected unanimously. His name is LeBron James,” she said, saying it slowly for emphasis. “I can not tell you how delighted I am because it simply confirms that our union is supported by players all across the spectrum. LeBron’s addition to our executive committee is evidence of that. This is a great day for our union.”
James, who considered running for president before Paul was elected, has been outspoken on several player-related issues already. But he’ll now have a formal seat alongside Paul at the bargaining table, giving the union a formidable executive branch at an important time.
Players or owners can opt out of the current CBA following the 2016-17 season, and the sides appear to be headed toward a showdown over revenue, which will grow exponentially with a new, $24 billion television deal set to kick in after the 2015-16 season.
One of the main reasons James signed only a one-year contract with a player option in Cleveland last summer was to ensure he would be a free agent in 2016 and maximize his earnings.
Roberts said James serving as an executive gives the union obvious clout.
“LeBron has been a force to be reckoned with among our players since the man has hit the court,” she said. “We have always wanted to have players of influence included in our executive committee. It gets your (media) attention. It gets all of your attention.”
Roberts said the union rejected a proposal from the league about raising the salary cap incrementally.
Earlier, James appeared at an NBA service day event with commissioner Adam Silver, who said he has spoken in the past to the 30-year-old about ways to help players. Silver said the open dialogue with James — and other players — is vital to the league’s sustained well-being and critical to avoid the kind of lockout that damaged the NBA’s image in 2011-12.
“We’re always focused on building a relationship directly with the players and the players’ association, so it’s (a lockout) is not a concern of mine right now.”
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