NBA Players Association boss Billy Hunter and commissioner David Stern went toe-to-toe during an annual chat in the locker room of Staples Center where the league's finest players had assembled before the 2011 NBA All-Star Game, reports Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski. Woj reports that after Hunter waxed poetic and threateningly about the near-boycott of the 1964 All-Star Game staged by stars seeking medical coverage and pensions, an irate Stern told Hunter and the players that he knew where the bodies were buried in the NBA, because he had put some of them there.
Woj has Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose confirming the exchange on the record.
"It was shocking," Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose told Yahoo! Sports. "I was taking off my gear, and when he said that, I just stopped and thought, 'Whoa ...'
"I couldn't believe that he said it."
Woj frames the verbal battle as a sign Hunter, long considered to be overmatched by Stern's phenomenal swag (to put it bluntly), is not messing around as the league and union scream towards a lockout on July 1. Other anonymous All-Stars in the room when Stern lashed out tell Wojnarowski they were glad Hunter stood up to the commish, and that it was "the best" they had ever seen Hunter.
Stern is widely considered a hothead; frankly, he does little to hide that side of his personality. That Hunter was able to present that vision of the commissioner in such a celebratory setting and without Stern ready to sanely reply is really something else. What it doesn't do is suggest the men will be able to hammer out a deal without each extracting a pound or two of flesh.