From the NBA: The Comish Nixes NOLA-LA Exchange, taking Heat

December 11, 2011

Political Theory


It’s a Slam Dunk!..oh, wait a sec…

All eyes in the professional sports world have been turned on the NBA and the chaotic trading which has been going on the past week. Players are being swapped back and forth, with new deals being announced by the hour. The headlining one was, no doubt, the deal between the New Orleans Hornets, L.A. Lakers, and the Houston Rockets, which would have seen the Hornets’ superstar point guard, Chris Paul, sent to L.A. to play side by side with Kobe Bryant, five time NBA champion. But what happened hours after this trade was made public is where the real story begins. Hours after the trade was announced, the League vetoed the trade. No go. Twitter feeds blew up (Paul’s reaction: “WoW”) and ESPN was running 24/7 action on this news. It was the talk of the whole sports world.

Imagine that...Championship?

Now, What’s the Big Deal Here?

Now, why was this so controversial? Vetoes have happened before, in all professional sports leagues. But, you see, the Hornets are the only team in the National Basketball Association (see, Association) that is not privately owned. Instead, after years of speculated financial trouble, their previous owner sold the team to the league itself in December of last year, 2010. So David Stern, commissioner of the whole league, set up a front office to run the Hornets as if they were, in fact, privately owned, and vowed to limit any personal involvement with the team. And because the league runs as a pact between 30 teams, which are essentially individual businesses or, in specific legal terms, franchises, each owner gives a certain amount of their revenue to the league itself so it can keep everything up and running, dealing with all the logistics of the league and game play. So, technically, each owner has a small stake in the team. Thus, when Commish Stern vetoed the trade, he came under heavy fire for crossing the line he set up between team owner and commissioner. Many people scrutinized his decision as a power trip, as an attempt to undermine the other owners and use his executive power to keep Chris Paul in New Orleans and prohibit another trade which creates a super-team in a big market city, a la the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, or New York Knicks. Other owners, such as Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert, (who has already experienced the pain of having a team’s sole superstar and reason of success- Lebron James- leave) commended Stern’s actions as preserving the spirit of the league and giving a small market team an attempt at relevancy and success, as without a certified star, teams tend to decline financially as well as on the court.

The Comish: What's he plotting??

David vs Goliath 

Did Stern authorize his power appropriately? Did he do the right thing or did he mingle in affairs that were not his to dabble in? I feel this problem can be related to that of social contracts proposed by Locke. By having a team in the league, owners give their consent to have some overarching body of power that is set up to run the league, propose new rules and business codes, and operate these legislations for the best interest and preservation of the league as a whole, much like how Locke views a social contract. The owners could have let the Hornets fail and become a defunct franchise, but they allowed the league- with their money- to purchase the team because it was deemed to be in the best interest of the league to have a team in New Orleans. And with that decision they allowed David Stern to, essentially, become the acting owner of the team. They could have made the Hornets a team owned by all the owners directly, with every major decision resting on a vote, in a situation mirroring the contract Rousseau envisions, where the government/political body barely has power. But this would be impractical and potentially illegal, as coercion and collusion could have resulted. And much like the government Locke envisions, people who consent give it the right to forbid politically harmful practices, which, in this case, was the trade, which many people thought not only would tank an chance of New Orleans being a successful franchise, but would give Los Angeles the ability to pursue another superstar player- Dwight Howard-and cement the idea that only big market teams are viable. However, others believe that Stern was acting too much as a Leviathan of sorts, who believed that his position in the league granted him status to override trades he, personally, did not approve of for “basketball reasons.” Supports of the trade think that the players New Orleans would have received would have granted similar levels of on court success and that the move was smart financially.

The Social Contract Theorists: Big Ballin' All Day Err Day

The plot has only been thickening over the last few days, as more reports suggest the trade is not actually dead, that Stern has rescinded his veto, and that the deal has been revised and sent to the NBA office for re-approval. Was Stern’s initial judgment the correct one? Or should he let the trade ride out and see what will happen with another Super team in the league?

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3 Comments on “From the NBA: The Comish Nixes NOLA-LA Exchange, taking Heat”

  1. rpsafian Says:

    I find this post extremely important to the issues regarding the National Basketball Association right now and thought it was a very intriguing post, being that I am a pretty big NBA fan and cannot wait for the league to resume play. Just a few days after the lockout officially ended, I heard that Chris Paul was going to be traded to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston, and Lamar Odom to the Hornets as part of a three-team deal that also included some first round draft picks. Initially, I thought, “Wow, the NBA is finally starting to get their act together and this season might not turn out so bad after all. Teams are making big changes to make things exciting and making the past few months up to fans that have disappointed with the lack of the league”. However, after hearing that the CP trade was nullified, and then hearing that David Stern was behind the blockade, as he, the NBA commissioner and “owner” of the Hornets, even thought I HATE referring to him like that because I think he’s a manipulator that has been ruining the league for years, I literally shouted out “F*** You David Stern you crook”. David Stern vetoed the three team Chris Paul deal because he is a selfish, outdated scumbag that refuses to listen to anyone’s opinion and does things his own way. Yes, the LA Lakers would now add another world famous athlete, hollywood star, and league ambassador to their team, and the Hornets would be pretty much talentless and left to fend for themselves with the little salary money they have, but isn’t this world supposed to be survival of the fittest?

    Chris Paul said he would not re-sign a deal with the Hornets this season, and without him and without the replacement of a real superstar, the Hornets are quickly going further down the drain and David Stern is still using his executive power to keep them alive. If I was David Stern, and thankfully I am nothing like him, I would have accepted the original three-team trade in the first place and sold the Hornets to a new owner that would move the team to a new city, perhaps Birmingham, Alabama, who still doesn’t have a team despite their enormous basketball fan base, or even Las Vegas, Nevada, the city with an astounding amount of money. David Stern has caused too many problems for the NBA and it’s fans over the past year(s)(yes, look at his previous history), and those that were upset before are now more than outraged with this nullification of a trade deal simply to keep “his team” alive.

  2. mbernstein7 Says:

    In all my years as an avid sports fan, I have never seen anything like this. For starters, I need to get my bias out of the way: As a diehard New York Knicks fan, I was crushed by the initial trade report that said that Paul was on his way to Los Angeles to team up with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. It was hard for me not to initially crack up laughing at what happened a few hours later.

    That being said, after looking at the outcome of the proposed trade objectively, I could not find any justification for Stern to object to the trade. Granted, the NBA is currently going through hard times, as small market teams are finding it nearly impossible to compete with large market teams, like Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, and New York. Free agents are fleeing places like Cleveland for the sunny beaches of Miami (insert joke about LeBron James here).

    Stern’s blatant abuse of power to keep the Hornets franchise alive, while preventing Los Angeles from acquiring another star and creating their own “big three”, should not be overlooked. It’s pretty possible that this is the end of David Stern as NBA commissioner. For all that he has done for the league (he is responsible for giving the NBA the global presence it currently has), Stern should not be given a free pass for abusing his power as commissioner to block this trade.

    Chris Paul is suing the NBA, and most likely will win. How do you expect Paul to come out and give his all for the Hornets this season when he came out and said that he did not want to play there? I thought the point of blocking this trade was to make sure the league remained fair. The Hornets had a better chance of winning with the pieces they were getting from Los Angeles and Houston than they do with a disgruntled Paul.

  3. rschles92 Says:

    Stern and the owners clearly exercised too much power. But to play devil’s advocate, there is a point that the owners can make.

    It is curious that the Hornets would accept this trade from the Lakers when the Clippers offered what seemed to be a much better trade (which is now being submitted to the league). In the Lakers trade, the Hornets get an aging Odom, overpriced players Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and bench player Goran Dragic. The Clippers offered young blossoming players Eric Bledsoe, Al Farooq Aminu and veteran big man Chris Kaman and possibly Eric Gordon who is a budding star.

    It seems the Hornets would much rather rebuild with a young core than use up cap space on old players who have low production.

    But why would the Hornets do that? It doesn’t really add up why they would accept the Lakers’ trade. It could be that Hornets management doesn’t really care what they get in return since their jobs are in jeopardy when the Hornets finally find a buyer.

    Maybe the owners did us a favor by maintaining good competition instead of allowing a lackadaisical Hornets front office give away a gem for nothing.

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