NBA Players Look to Disband Union: Will There Be a Season At All?

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Shannon Stapleto / Reuters

President of the NBA players association Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks as the New York Knicks Chauncey Billups (L-R), Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder Russel Westbrook (R) look on during a news conference announcing the players' rejection of the league's latest offer.

While scuttling the NBA owners’ offer that came with a hefty ultimatum, the NBA Players Association showed it feels talks have completely disintegrated and will take their issues with owners to a courtroom.

In a show of solidarity behind NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter and players’ union representative Derek Fisher, the players rejected the latest—and supposed best—offer from owners and started the process of disbanding the union, which not only moves the situation to the courts, but also likely ends the chances for a 2011-2012 NBA season, one that should have already started.

“It looks like the 2011-12 season is really in jeopardy,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an interview aired on ESPN. “It’s just a big charade. To do it now, the union is ratcheting up I guess to see if they can scare the NBA owners or something. That’s not happening.”

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Hunter says the new move serves as the “best situation where players can get their due process.” And Fisher says what the owners want the players to agree to is “extremely unfair.”

By converting the union into a trade association, the players can gain representation by lawyers in a class action antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, Hunter says, a move similar to what NFL players did earlier in the year. In fact, the players will gain the representation of David Boies, who also worked on the side of the NFL players, and Jeffrey Kessler, who actually served on the side of the NFL owners and has flipped to the NBA players in this case. While the NFL players de-certified, NBA players are only disbanding.

While the process shuffles through the court, players and owners can—if willing—still negotiate. The latest offer from the owners included a 72-game season set to start in mid-December and a promise that future offers would only get worse, not better. The prospect of any season, obviously, is now precarious.

“We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season; we understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don’t go our way, but it’s a risk worth taking,” union vice president Maurice Evans said in a press conference. “It’s the right move to do.”

The owners saw this move coming and have already filed a lawsuit that, if they win, could void players’ guaranteed contracts. The players will take the risk.

“Mr. Kessler got his way, and we’re about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA,” Stern told ESPN. “If I were a player … I would be wondering what it is that Billy Hunter just did.”

But with a bargaining process completely broken, Hunter says the players finally decided to push back. The shoving will only continue.

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