Michele Roberts: I always say this to young people, especially young people of color: there are certain things you cannot change and don’t want to change. I can’t change the fact that I’m an African American woman, and as it turns out, I happen to like being an African American woman. If that’s the case, and it is, why in the world would I spend time agonizing over that? It took me a while because I grew up around no white people except my teachers, and then I was 13 and thrust into an environment where there were all white people. And this was back in the late ’60s, early ’70s, and even though that’s not that long ago, it’s still long enough for people to have been pretty stupid and do pretty stupid things. Most of the people I interacted with were perfectly fine, but there were a number of them that were not. And so, I did end up having a bit of a chip on my shoulder, and I did it for purposes of self-protection. I was a kid, I was by myself, I didn’t have anyone that could help me navigate those waters, and so I became very self-conscious and distrustful. When I got older and I became more confident, I decided I was not going to go into rooms counting the number of black people on my hand or noting the fact that there was no one there that looked like me, and worry that people were going to think that I was stupid or think that I was not as bright as they were. And so I tell people, I’m not going to spend the time worried about those issues.
“You know how tenacious he is on the court?” says Cavaliers veteran James Jones, who serves on the NBPA’s executive committee. “It’s no different behind the scenes in our meetings. Chris starts the conversation and finishes the conversation.”
The game’s best-known stars would continue to have a strong hand in union affairs for decades, but after Patrick Ewing stepped down from the presidency in 2001, the makeup changed. “The top guys began to clear out of the union because it was run so badly,” says David Falk, one of the most prominent agents in NBA history.
Roberts got the job. Paul calls the hire the most significant thing the NBPA has done on his watch. “At first there was a little bit of, um, hesitancy to elect a woman,” Pistons forward and union VP Anthony Tolliver says. “Not because we’re sexist, but we just weren’t quite sure how our guys were going to react to that. But Chris was adamant. He thought she’d be the best leader. By the end of the process, every single guy on our committee thought she was the best candidate. Chris said that from the beginning. We ended up following his lead.”
Howard Beck: NBPA news: Domonique Foxworth is resigning as union’s COO, just 11 months after being hired, per multiple sources. Foxworth is the second key officer to quit. Walter Palmer, Dir of Intl Relations & Mktg, resigned in June. Foxworth and Palmer were both hired last October, as part of Exec Director Michele Roberts’ initial senior management team.
The league made so much money last season — and that’s (ital.)before(endital) the new TV money kicks in — it had to write the players a check for more than $57 million, which the players then split amongst themselves. That was what the league owed the players after giving them their 50 percent of BRI for last season. The players can receive up to 51 percent of BRI in a given year if revenues exceed projections. When that happened last season, the league was on the hook for that $57 million. And 1/30th of the shortfall paid to the players is also added to the following season’s salary cap, which is why there was an 11th-hour bump of almost $2 million to next season’s salary cap, raising it to $70 million. In addition, the players got back all of the escrow — 10 percent of their combined salaries — that they give annually to the owners in case revenues are less than expected. The huge increases in revenues came from spikes in the gate (around $100 million more in ticket sales than in 2013-14, according to a source), local television rights deals ($70 million more) and national TV increases ($20 million). The gate spikes were led by the Cavaliers, with James back in Cleveland, and the Hawks, whose surge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings led to a record number of Philips Arena sellouts.