When the National Basketball Players Association conducted a conference call and vote on restarting the season a week ago, Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving was an active participant — although his questions were of a mundane nature.
Sources say Irving asked, as an injured player, if he would count among the Nets’ allotted 35 people should he want to join the Orlando, Florida, bubble. Could he sit in the stands to cheer on his teammates? Use a sauna for his rehab?
He had a question about NBA sponsors on campus, and whether they would be supplying players with products. A union official asked him for an example, and Irving mentioned a popular adult beverage — before insisting that he had indeed simply shared an example — and wondered what food might be provided to players under league partnerships.
All in all, his inquiries weren’t of weighty consequence.
There were two dozen-plus team representatives and several more executive committee members on the call, and Irving’s stature as one of the NBPA’s six elected vice presidents, in addition to his credentials as an NBA champion and All-Star Game MVP, elevated him among those peers voting on the call. The final tally: 28-0.
Looking back, the call itself was much less a discussion on the merits of restarting the season, and much more a Q&A with NBPA executive director Michele Roberts and president Chris Paul on the mechanics and rules expected to govern teams, players and the bubble environment, sources said.
So, yes, it surprised several of his NBPA colleagues that Irving — lost for the season with shoulder surgery in March — was simultaneously lending his voice to a far different discussion with rank-and-file union members on upending the league’s plans for a 22-team restart at Disney World in Orlando, sources said.
On a call that included nearly 100 players and several stars on Friday night, Irving made an impassioned plea for players to make a stand and sit out the season’s resumption in Orlando, sources said. Around 90 minutes in length, the call included several players suggesting they’d be willing to sit out the season — and numerous more discussing social issues, league economics and, ultimately, a sense that they needed to be united in a decision.
Where it leads the NBA now remains unclear. Even after the call, there was still a belief within the league that the NBA would have the players’ support it needed to resume the season, but no one could be as sure as they seemed to be a mere week ago.
What a fascinating turn of events. With Lebron pushing players to support re-opening, I would bet on that side ultimately winning, but it’s interesting to see what will happen here.