It didn't take long for LeBron James' idea of creating a new golden age of basketball by eliminating teams to reach the ears of National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher.
"I agree that the '80s was a great time for NBA basketball," Fisher told reporters Friday after practice at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo. "But I don't agree that contraction or arbitrarily trying to get Hall of Fame or All-Star guys all on the same team is necessarily how you re-create one of the greatest times in NBA history."
Via the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog: Derek Fisher disagrees with LeBron James endorsing league contraction
When asked Thursday night in Phoenix – by me, if you must know – whether the anticipation of Saturday’s clash between the Lakers and free-agent-fortified Heat was validation for the decision by James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to team up in South Beach, James went on an articulate and controversial tangent about how the NBA’s overall talent is “watered down.”
“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport.”
Via CBSSports.com's BergerSphere: LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA
When it was pointed out to James that the NBA only had 24 teams back then, as opposed to the 30 it has now, James said, “That’s why. That’s my point.”
Unsolicited, he then listed some of the teams in the ‘80s that had multiple All-Stars or Hall of Famers. But his soliloquy took a decidedly anti-union direction when he went so far as to name teams that are “not that good right now” – Minnesota and New Jersey were his examples – and spoke about what would happen if you took the good players on those teams and put them on better teams. Such a move would “shrink the guys” James said – a nice way of saying jobs would be lost through contraction, a concept that league negotiators have already confirmed is on the table as part of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I’m not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league,” James said. “But hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league."
Fisher, whose union clearly would oppose such a move, said he disagreed with LeBron’s comments but didn’t believe they will hurt the NBPA’s cause in negotiations.
"I don't think it's my place to tell one of our guys what they should be thinking or feeling or saying,” Fisher said. “But I don't necessarily agree with it."
One of the biggest stars in the NBA talking about making the league great again by concentrating the talent on fewer teams? That’s certainly something the 30 worse players in the league can’t be happy about – considering that’s how many jobs would be lost if two teams were contracted.
It’s also hard to see how the overall product wouldn’t be better. That’s something Fisher, union chief Billy Hunter, commissioner David Stern and his 30 (for now) owners will have to figure out.