In some ways, LeBron James has always viewed himself as the rightful heir to Michael Jordan’s throne. In the end, what could make him even more legendary, at least in the eyes of his peers, are the comparisons he’s now drawing to Oscar Robertson.
Over the All-Star Weekend, James was elected vice president of the NBA Player’s union, a distinction that comes at a time when players are bracing for perhaps their most intense and brutal battle with owners since The Big O, as president of the NBPA some four decades ago, sued league owners to alleviate a clause in player contracts that ultimately led to the free agency they now reap the benefits of.
Some of the hot-button issues at the forefront of all the current volatility revolve around how to equitably split the profits of the record-setting $24 billion over nine years TV contract league officials just inked; a resolution on the issue of a league-age limit and some sort of tweaking of the regular season schedule that would allow players more time to rest and re-energize themselves.
James joins NBPA president Chris Paul as the face of the player’s side and the Hall of Fame Robertson is convinced the L.A. Clippers All-Star point-guard couldn’t have a better teammate to wage his battle alongside than the four-time league MVP.
“I think it’s wonderful, the stars need to lead by example,” Robertson said. “There’s so much to be done in the next few years. It’s not a risk for LeBron because he’s a star; there’s nothing they can do to LeBron. Times have changed, there is nothing the owners can do. Years ago, owners didn’t want players in (union leadership), they tried to trade you or get rid of you and get you out of the league. They’ll deny that but it was true.”
James appears to understand there could be risks involved, but seems even more driven by the perceived rationalization he has no choice.
“It’s very important,” he said. “It’s going to be a very important negotiation and I’m a big part of the process. We’ll have a game plan but today is not the time (to discuss it). We’ll get to those matters.”
Shortly after news of the new TV deal began to filter back in early October, James all but went on record with the stance owners should expect him to take heretofore in all their dealings.
“As a players association and as owners, we’ve got to figure out how we can continue to grow the pie and continue to grow the business of the game,” he said back then. “That’s the No. 1 objective. That should always be the No. 1 objective— how we continue to grow the game. It’s one of the most renowned games we have in this world.”
As a first order of business, James was scheduled to talk strategy with recently elected player’s union boss Michele Roberts over the weekend. To hear Robertson tell it, they’ve already got a prohibitive advantage only the likes of the LeBron James’ of the world can give them.
“LeBron can get instant access to the media and the fans,” he said. “In this day and age, it isn’t always what you do behind closed doors. Sometimes it’s public and getting the mass of people behind you. I’m sure he can do that.”