I’ve been in the NBA six years now, and I joined the union’s executive committee four years ago. Look, if you work at Apple (AAPL) and the company has a meeting, you’d want to be there, right? I wanted to know what was going on at these conference tables because the decisions made there affect not only me but the other guys in the league.
I was 13 years old during the last lockout, and I had no idea what it was about. All I knew was that there was no basketball, which is why, this time around, it was so hard to walk away from the negotiating table without a deal. I know—we know—how much it affects the fans. And we know that if it weren’t for the fans, there would be no us.
We hate to see something like a lockout take place, but we can’t just take a huge step back. There are so many players that came before us—Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing—who got the game to where it is today. And what about the kids in high school who aspire to be in the NBA? We don’t believe in making sure it’s O.K. for ourselves now, but more difficult for them later.
There’s a cross section of players on the executive committee, which has to represent everyone. I felt there should be a guy with a maximum contract to give perspective. [Paul will be paid $16.3 million by the New Orleans Hornets next season.] Whatever sacrifices have to be made are worth it to make sure we get a fair deal, a deal that represents the whole. Some kids go to college knowing they’re only playing one year before turning pro, and it was fitting that the last meeting we had with the owners came the day after the draft. We’re standing up for those players because they don’t have a say-so. We’re their voice: It’s a big brother mentality.
All the players are competitors. We want to get out there, but adjustments are going to have to be made. The pain will be not getting to stand in front of the fans and compete, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail. My son just turned 2. Maybe one day he can sign a nice contract and be proud that his dad fought for him. — As told to Scott Soshnick