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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gang mentality not good for league


By Drew Sharp
Detroit Free Press

Is it just me, or does this overhyped NBA free agency "summit" conjure memories of the meeting of "The Five Families" in "The Godfather"?

Remember when the mob bosses passed around a bowl of diamond rings as an appetizer for their guests? Such naked opulence and brazen disregard for propriety reinforced how out of touch with the real world those are who live by their own code of conduct.

Will LeBron James hand out new $200 Nikes for his guests?

It also was suggested to me that Robert De Niro's Al Capone characterization in "The Untouchables" might be a more suitable parallel.

Remember the baseball bat scene at that summit when Capone "discussed" the virtues of team over individual achievement?

It's funny how much attention this meeting of the minds is receiving. Dwyane Wade told the Chicago Tribune last week that he, LeBron and Atlanta free-agent guard Joe Johnson would discuss respective free-agency decisions together before rendering a final verdict. It wasn't long before Toronto's Chris Bosh wanted entry into the summit. And now Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire wants in.

I never thought I'd ever see another NBA story overshadow a dream NBA Finals Boston vs. Los Angeles. But there's less interest in where Phil Jackson's coaching now and more intrigue as to where LeBron might tell him he's coaching next season.

The NBA wanted a star-driven league. Well, this is the end result. Welcome to your worst nightmare, David Stern. The players are calling the shots, more than they rightfully deserve.

They're free to make as much money as the open market will allow, but this is a consolidation of player power never before experienced in professional sports. They're not simply deciding where they're playing, but they're also telling ownership how to spend their money and even whom to hire as their coaches. And since these mega-millionaires, each a separate corporation in his own right, are nonetheless still officially considered the property of the NBA, this cartel doesn't reach the legal standard of collusion because they're still technically the employees.

It would be nice if LeBron and his cabal understood the historic perspective of their endeavor.

Maybe he, Wade, Bosh and Stoudemire should research how what happened 40 years ago cleared the trees for the road that led them here.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball in January 1970, challenging the legality of the sport's reserve clause, which basically allowed teams to hold a player's rights in perpetuity. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of MLB.

The players ultimately won their deserved freedom, but even Flood likely never envisioned something like this.