Big O: LeBron a valuable add to union

ByBrian Windhorst ESPN logo
Saturday, February 14, 2015

NEW YORK -- LeBron Jamesfrequently has been compared to Oscar Robertson because of his style of play. But now the Hall of Famer sees another link after James was elected vice president of the National Basketball Players Union on Friday.

Robertson was the president of the NBPA in the 1970s and successfully sued NBA owners to eliminate the reserve clause in contracts to pave the way for modern free agency. This week James, decided to join union president Chris Paul to form a high-profile leadership as the players prepare for pivotal labor negotiations in 2017.

"It's very important. It's going to be a very important negotiation and I'm a big part of the process," James said Saturday. "We'll have a game plan but today is not the time (to discuss it). We'll get to those matters."

Robertson commended James for taking advantage of the opportunity.

"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."

Robertson believes that James can leverage his position as the league's signature star in ways he could not 40 years ago, and that is why having him and Paul as the face of the union could be valuable.

"It's not a risk for LeBron because he's a star; there's nothing they can do to LeBron," Robertson said. "You have to be successful and then you can put yourself in that position. 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 was scheduled to meet with new union executive director Michele Roberts on Saturday. Just how involved James -- who has a heavy offseason schedule -- will be involved in the union business is yet to be seen.

But Robertson sees another and perhaps more valuable role James can play, especially if coming talks over how to split up revenue become contentious as they did during a five-month lockout in 2011.

"LeBron can get instant access to the media and the fans," Robertson 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."

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