Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving recently made waves when it was reported that he had suggested to teammates that the players could start their own basketball league as part of his efforts to get more NBA guys to skip out on the league’s planned season resumption for late July.
The report came courtesy of Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, who wrote:
“Irving’s push to skip the bubble has spawned a debate over whether NBA players could effectively influence social reform while playing, or whether they’d have to boycott to force meaningful change. Irving not only led a discussion with close to 100 union members in a conference call, he also urged Nets players to skip the bubble recently in a separate group chat, the Daily News has learned. In that chat, Irving proposed that players could start their own league, according to a source.”
As audacious as that may sound, Irving surprisingly isn’t the first person to suggest NBA players start their own league, as former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks star Amare Stoudemire did the same back in 2011 when the league was in the midst of a heated lockout that would go on to last until Christmas of that year.
And Stoudemire actually went public with his idea, unlike Irving, who has yet to openly confirm nor deny how serious he is about what he told teammates. Stoudemire told a group of reporters the following:
“With his entrepreneurial spirit running at top speed, Stoudemire also divulged his latest brain-storming efforts: a new basketball league. ‘If we don’t go to Europe then let’s to start our own league,’ Stoudemire told a group of reporters. ‘That’s how I see it. It’s very serious. Yeah. It’s very, very serious. Its a matter of us coming up with a plan, blueprint and putting it together. So we’ll see how this lockout goes. If it goes one or two years, then we got to start our own league.'”
Stoudemire wasn’t done, either. He continued:
“‘If it don’t resolve then we’re thinking about starting our own league,’ he continued. ‘Obviously we’re trying to get things started now as far as, you know, getting the lockout resolved. You know what I mean? We want to play NBA basketball. But if it doesn’t happen, what are we going to do? We can’t just sit around and not do anything.'”
After those initial quotes, there was no follow-up with Stoudemire on the players forming their own league, though as you may remember, that fall, NBA players organized various pickup games featuring some of the league’s biggest names that fans were able to pay to stream and watch from home.
Regardless, no more talk came of players forming their own league, and Charles Barkley notably called Stoudemire’s idea “one of the stupidest things [he’s] ever heard”.
At the end of the day, Irving standing up for what he believes in is commendable, but the idea of players getting out of their current contracts, finding financial backers, landing TV deals and doing all the other work that would be required in order to start a new basketball league to compete with the billion-dollar-plus NBA is the longest of long shots, and not all that credible of a threat.
Now, if players want to pass on heading to the Orlando bubble in order to pursue activism or because they don’t feel it’s safe, that’s one thing. But them banding together to form their own league almost certainly isn’t going to happen.