Kyrie Irving has been elected by his fellow NBA players as a new vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, the union announced Monday. Irving will replace former vice president Pau Gasol, whose three-year term has expired. Gasol, now 39 years old, was waived by the Portland Trail Blazers earlier this season and has not played since.
Irving's vice presidency does not make him the union's second-ranking leader. The union is structured around a nine-player Executive Committee along with 30 player representatives from each NBA team. That Executive Committee features a president, Chris Paul, a first vice president, currently Andre Iguodala, and a secretary-treasurer, currently Anthony Tolliver. The remaining six slots all have VP titles, one of which Irving is now inheriting.
"This was the right time for me to run for a leadership position in the NBPA," Irving said in a statement. "I have been an observer and a participant in union affairs for a while, but for the most part, I was off on the sidelines, supporting our Executive Committee as they made important decisions. At this point in my career, I wanted to join forces with those guys and take a bigger role outside of the basketball court and within our union."
Irving has never previously held a leadership role in the union. He is the union representative for the Brooklyn Nets, but fellow Net Garrett Temple likely would have held that role if he were not also serving as a vice president. Former Boston Celtics teammate Jaylen Brown, whom Irving clashed with last season, is also a vice president.
NBPA president Chris Paul talked about the impact Gasol made on the job during his three years:
"Pau brought an invaluable perspective to the Executive Committee as both an international player and a highly respected league veteran," Paul said. "In the last three years, the NBPA has greatly expanded our resources for international players and I believe that is a direct effect of Pau. We are grateful to him for his service and we are thrilled to have Kyrie join us as the newest vice president. Having a player of his caliber coupled with his off-the-court-business acumen will help us to continue to strengthen the union as a whole and empower our individual voices as players."
The NBA and the union are currently enjoying a period of unparalleled labor peace. The two sides quietly agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in 2016 that both sides are locked into through at least the 2022-23 season. At the very least, that will take the league more than a decade beyond its most recent work stoppage in 2011. While declining TV ratings and lost revenue in China could create some strife when negotiations pick up for a new deal, neither side appears close to pursuing another stoppage.
Irving, like all other vice presidents, will serve a three-year term in office. A lot could change in that time, but for now, Irving is entering as stable a situation as any Executive Committee member has in years.