Several NBA players – LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo most vehemently among likely All-Stars – have objected to the league holding an All-Star game this year.
Too often missing from the discussion: An All-Star game is happening only because the players’ union agreed to it.
National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul – who, interestingly, is a close friend of LeBron – provided more context on the issue.
Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic:
"I talked to 'Bron maybe a week or two ago. I talked to Steph. A few guys."
NBPA president Chris Paul on #NBAAllStar game as guys like LeBron James have been outspoken against it.
"Emotions happen. Guys have feelings and you got to be able to express them and I respect that." pic.twitter.com/d0CGrs7I4c
— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 6, 2021
Guys are entitled to their feelings, decisions and everything. I think the job for the union has been to try to make sure our players are healthy and safe. This is something that was a decision by the league, and we are definitely – day-in and day-out – trying to figure it out. But we’ve got 450 players that we’re always trying to get insight from, and it’s tough. So, we’re all trying to figure it out right now.
It’s tough. You try overcommunicate as much as possible. I talked to Bron maybe a week or two ago. I talked to Steph, a few guys. And our executive committee, we get on calls, and we try to figure it out. There’s different situations. But guys who’ve been playing a lot of games who haven’t really had much of a break. I’m sure I’m not the only guy in the league that lives without their family. And so guys look at that break as an opportunity to see their families. It’s a lot of different things going on right now. But you just hope that guys understand that decisions that are being made – especially as far as, the union has always got the full body of players in mind. But emotions happen. Guys have feelings. And you’ve got to be able to express them. And I respect that.
With hundreds of members – from wealthy superstars to relatively low-paid rookies – the NBPA must often balance competing priorities. Ironically, Paul was reportedly unpopular as union president because he prioritizes stars. But if it’s not stars vs. rank-and-file players, there are other internal disagreements within the union. It can get contentious.
This situation has its own complexities.
Players’ salaries are directly tied to leaguewide revenue. All players benefit from the league making more money. But only 24 players play in the All-Star game. Should stars have more say in this decision? They’re the ones who’d have to sacrifice time in their All-Star break to play an exhibition game in Atlanta. Or should every union member have an equal say? Players collectively stand to gain from the revenue produced by an All-Star game.
There’s no perfect answer.
At one point, there were talks of allowing All-Stars to opt out of the game. We’ll see whether that’s included in the final plan. If it is, we’ll see how many players actually exercise that option. Though we’ve heard from some potential All-Stars, many more haven’t publicly stated their eagerness to play or lack thereof.
But enough top players are opposed that this is a major – and complicated – issue for Paul and the union.