LeBron James is fairly well established as the NBA's best player — even if Kevin Durant looks like this season's MVP — a uniquely talented do-everything athlete with the titles to answer any complaints that once existed. But James has proven unwilling to rest on the laurels of his on-court play. In addition to the somewhat typical superstar dreams of global entertainment stardom, LeBron has shown interest in becoming a bigger force in the players' union, commenting on the NBPA's recent troubles and once considering a run for its presidency. He wants to make an impact on the league in as expansive a way as possible.
With longtime deputy commissioner Adam Silver set to replace David Stern as the NBA's newest top executive within a matter of days, James sees a new opportunity to have his voice heard. While speaking to reporters on Tuesday, LeBron said that he hopes to speak with Silver about how the NBA can expand over the next few years. From Sam Amick for USAToday.com:
"Um, I'm making (a list)," James said. "I don't know if I want to make it public knowledge right now, but hopefully I can sit down with the Commish – the soon to be Commish – and just throw out some ideas where I feel like the league can be better, and hopefully he has some ideas for me to see on my part." [...]
"I think (Silver) is great," James said. "The opportunities I've had to be around him as he's been the assistant commish, he's been amazing. He's easy to talk to. He's someone that understands the business, who understands what the game of basketball means to everyone – the owners, the players, the coaches, everyone. Everyone included, the whole pie. I'm looking forward to him. I'm excited for him, and best of luck to him. Hopefully he can get 30 years in too like David was able to get. Who knows what his 30 years can do for the game." [...]
"We don't need major change," James said. "This game has grown from just being in America to over almost 300 countries right now…But the game can always be bigger. There's a lot of people who love the game who are not able to watch the game, so I feel we can broadcast it in more countries as well and continue to inspire people that want to play the game, who love the game. It's the greatest game in the world to me. Obviously I'm biased, because I'm in it, but you know the things that we're able to do out on the floor to inspire people is unbelievable."
It appears that LeBron's ideas aren't so widespread as to force angry debates over the league's future. It appears that James, as one of the organization's most important figures, simply wants to bring up some issues and have a discussion with Silver. In a way, it's a case of an important employee discussing issues with his new boss, although those terms don't quite apply to this situation perfectly.
Still, the fact that James sees this relationship as a partnership signifies an important change in how players (as a general group or as an officially organized union) may approach the new commissioner. In the last years of David Stern, interactions between the league office (and owners, by extension) and players have been marked by an adversarial tone, chiefly in regards to labor disputes but also in more minor moments such as new rules that were not collectively bargained or created with input from the athletes they affect. By sharing his desire to speak with Silver about the NBA's future, LeBron is attempting to open a dialogue, not just a back-and-forth focused on occasional disputes.
Silver has learned the job commissioner from Stern, so it's entirely possible that he will not be so willing to listen to and employ the ideas of players. However, in the absence of certainty on this issue, it makes sense that LeBron and others think they have a shot to influence the early days of his tenure and beyond. As ever, a new leader creates new opportunities, at least in theory.
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