NBA players' union elects attorney Michele Roberts as executive director

Adrian Wojnarowski
The Vertical
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04: A detail of the NBA Players Association logo with the slogan " THe Players' Union FIghting for You" is seen on Theo Ratliff of the Los Angeles Lakers as Derek Fisher, President of the National Basketball Players Association, speaks at a press conference after NBA labor negotiations at The Westin Times Square on October 4, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Players Association elected Michele Roberts, a prominent Washington civil litigator, as its executive director.

Roberts, an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is the first woman to lead a major North American sports league union.

Roberts was the recommendation of NBPA president Chris Paul and the nine-member executive committee, winning with 32 of 34 votes among committee members and team player representatives, sources said.

Roberts won over the players with a strong background as a civil criminal litigator and an unblemished character. She'll be replacing the deposed Billy Hunter, whose tenure was marked with labor negotiation failures, corruption and ethical entanglements.

The players passed on a career NBA executive with strong ties with the league office, Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery.

"I liked her labor law experience," one player representative told Yahoo Sports in a text message. "That was a priority for me."

The process was littered with the NBPA's usual dysfunction, including a late bid by player agents to push back the vote and further study the finalists – or possibly dump them all together. Nevertheless, the vote played out on Monday in Las Vegas and the union will start to move forward with a leader again.