On Thursday, I as well as many sports fans heard the news of Chris Paul being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. One of the premier point guards in the NBA, Paul has been seeking a trade that would remove him from the New Orleans Hornets. Unfortunately for him, this trade is starting to be known as “The Trade That Wasn’t”. In a move that took the vast majority of the sports world by surprise, the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, vetoed the trade that would move the superstar from a small market team to one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Stern, having been criticized before for some of his decisions, is facing even more criticism now. Since this decision, sports analysts and news stations have been commenting on his “power trip” and “monarchial” rule over the NBA. I think it goes without saying that in his Political Theory class Stern agreed heavily with Hobbes’ philosophies portrayed in Leviathan. He has taken it upon himself to be the lone law in the NBA, even as his decisions are repetitively condemned.
Stern released a statement following his decision saying,
“In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”
There are several interesting aspects to analyze from this statement. First is the clause, “free from the influence of other NBA owners”. The reason this is notable is because the often vocal owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, sent a letter to David Stern urging him to cancel this trade. His letter was leaked and now everyone can see his plea to the head honcho. He also says in the letter that the majority of owners disagreed with the trade and that it has to be cancelled. Could this have possibly affected Stern’s decision? And if so, how did he possibly let displeased opponents influence his decisions?
The next part that I find interesting, is “the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade”. Did David Stern look at the proposed trade then? The deal left the Hornets with a draft pick and 4 new players; 3 of which would have started for the Hornets: Lamar Odom (Los Angeles), Luis Scola (Houston), Kevin Martin (Houston), and Goran Dragic (Houston). The Houston Rockets would have received Pau Gasol from Los Angeles, and Los Angeles would have received Chris Paul. In no way, shape, or form is that deal overly oppressive to any team. Los Angeles gives up 2 of its top 6 players in exchange for 1, and Houston gives up 3 players for a legitimate starting center. New Orleans, finally, gives up their star player in exchange for 4 suitable players. It’s well known that there is zero chance the Hornets hold onto Chris Paul after his contract expires after this season, so why wouldn’t they seek replacements to build around?
This is utterly stupid, which is why David Stern has been widely criticized from virtually every sports media outlet. This is also probably why Stern is letting the teams resubmit the trade proposal in the hopes that it gets passed this time. I don’t care what his motives are, this move was uncalled for. Never in my life as an avid sports fan have I seen a commissioner overstep his bounds like this. His actions mirror what Hobbes’ argued for, in that he believes he has been granted absolute authority. Unfortunately, he is making decisions based on what he wants to see rather than what his constituents want to see, and there is no place for it in this league. Stern was too imposing and involved in this deal, plain and simple, which is why he is ultimately reneging on his decision. But then again, I’ve always been a Locke guy myself and feel that the commissioner should not interfere into decisions like he did, and instead let the teams govern themselves.