Roger Mason Jr. is currently an NBA free agent, unable to find an NBA playing opportunity for the upcoming season after being a bit player on a below-average New Orleans squad last season. His unemployment and declining play apparently won't preclude him from becoming the most important man in the NBA players' union, however, as he was set to run unopposed when the union voted for the predecessor to Derek Fisher's union president job.
Mason served four seasons as one of the NBPA's vice presidents -- a group that also included Jerry Stackhouse, James Jones, Chris Paul, Matt Bonner, Stephen Curry, Willie Green and Andre Iguodala last season -- so he's certainly qualified from that point of view. It would seem that the leader of NBPA's executive committee should be a current player dealing with the same things the men he leads are dealing with, though, not a man that is currently unable to hold the job of those he's representing.
Mason's run as NBPA president wouldn't be without precedent, however, as the majority of the union presidents' terms have happened during the latter stages of their careers.
Tommy Heinsohn, Oscar Robertson, Paul Silas, Isiah Thomas, Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Fisher all served as the union's president later in their careers. Their stints as head of the union began when they were still well-established as NBA contributors, however, and the end of their terms coincided with their retirement as players as well.
There have been three separate instances that the NBPA's president wasn't an active player since it was founded in 1954, but all of those situations had extenuating circumstances -- and the men at the helm during those seasons began their tenure as active players, too.
Fisher is the most recent example, obviously, as he started last season as a free agent. The Dallas Mavericks signed him in late November, though, and he wound up playing 33 games between them and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Bob Lanier was the union president from 1980 through the 1985 season, though he retired in 1984 at the age of 35 due to knee problems that hampered the majority of his career. He started 72 games for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1983-84 season, however, and likely could've found an NBA team willing to take on the future Hall of Famer for the final year of his union presidency had he not instead decided to get into the advertising business.
Junior Bridgeman later served as union president from 1985 through February 1988, despite his career ending following the 1986-87 season. The reason Bridgeman held on for a bit longer than his playing career did, though, was so that the same slate of NBA union representatives could continue ongoing negotiations with the league during that point in time.
The Bridgeman and Lanier examples are both cases far different than Mason's, though, because they were elected to their gigs while still active players -- not as free agents who could very well be out of the league for their entire stint as head of the NBA "players'" union.
As SB Nation's own Tom Ziller wrote Wednesday morning, Mason Jr. just doesn't represent what the union likely needs:
I don't think the players' union needs a star like LeBron James to be its president, but I do think it needs a current and future NBA player in that job. The executive board needs to reflect the diversity of the league with young players, veterans, stars and journeymen. Being full of players at or near retirement is not helpful in the central mission of the union (and any union): Representing the interests of the membership.
James might've been too high-profile to really focus on bettering the NBPA's situation, but Mason Jr. is likely too low-profile to really make a difference -- especially considering there's a good chance he's not on an NBA roster this year and almost assuredly won't be when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement needs to be negotiated.
Mason would've been a fine candidate five years ago, but the NBPA is heading into crucial territory, ushering in a new era with a new president and a new executive director after the ousted Billy Hunter served in that role since 1996.
The players should instead have banded together and found a current player who could commit to a long-term stint in order to build security for a union that is sorely lacking exactly in that department, not a player already on his way out of the NBA that isn't dealing with the problems his constituents will over the course of his term.