LeBron James will be at All-Star Weekend to play in the Sunday showdown as he is every year. But he has something else on the schedule: the NBA players' union's meeting with franchise owners. The Associated Press reports that LeBron, who hasn't been too involved in labor negotiations in the past, will show up at the planned bargaining session between franchisees and players, and if the opportunity strikes, he'll let his voice be heard.
"I'm going to listen a lot, because it's not like I'm there on every conversation or every phone call that they have," James said. "I don't know all, but as a player, as a person of this league, I know a lot about this league. If I feel like a comment needs to be said from me, I've never been one to hold my tongue. So I'll definitely voice my opinion."
Engagement from All-Star players who pay the league's bills is something union heads like Billy Hunter and even president Derek Fisher will cherish. That said, LeBron's concerns for a new collective bargaining agreement are far different than those of the rank-and-file of the union; we've seen divisions between top-tier players and the rank-and-file show up in labor negotiations in both 1995 and 1998. Back then, it was David Falk's cadre of stars, led by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning, who were more concerned with limits on a single player's salary than the total player-team share of revenue.
But again, engagement is good. LeBron will likely be joined by other members of the NBA's elite. Chris Paul is the only star-level player who actually sits on the union's board, which is otherwise made up of roleplayers. The board has some influence when it comes to brass tracks, as they will recommend union-wide votes on the final collective bargaining agreement as well as potentially line item concessions.