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Does the NBA Have a Players Association?

It’s hard to imagine that all these massive professional sports leagues are run and managed by just one person, in the NBA’s case Commissioner Adam Silver. The good news is the league is not run by one person. In fact the NBA is run by two different factions, one is the owners and one is the players.

Does the NBA Have a Players Association? Yes, the NBA does have a Players Association. The NBPA allows NBA players to have their voice heard in a meaningful way that affects how the league is run, both now and in the future. The main mechanism for this is the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Issues it covers can range from salary levels to team travel and many other regulations that govern how both the league office and the players should behave when representing the NBA.

The NBA Players Association (NBPA) is integral to the success of the NBA, both on and off the court. Although having a union isn’t (now at least) a revolutionary idea, it isn’t all that commonplace in major sports around the world, especially not in the way it is implemented by the NBA.

How Did the NBA Players Association Get Started?

The NBA Players Association was first started by the Boston Celtics point guard Bob Cousy in 1954. Cousy and his close friend Joe Sharry contacted a few long-standing members of the NBA community. They also received support from the NBA President at the time, Maurice Podoloff. These players set out a goal for themselves, to improve the basic conditions of the league. This stretched out to getting paid for promotional activities to a limit on the number of games played for a season. It also included wanting to get moving expenses for any players that happened to get traded. At first, the league refused to acknowledge them as an official group. That was until Cousy approached the owners and said that the players were going to go on strike unless they were taken seriously. The league shortly after recognized them as an official group. The NBA Players Association made an instant impact. They got players per diem payments and travel expenses and even helped with payment from teams that made the postseason. They made some immediate inroads, but further change was still desperately needed. Cousy grew frustrated at the lack of payments that the league was providing to their players and he chose to step down from his role as president. Tom Heinsohn took over those duties and managed to deliver a pension plan for players, a landmark achievement. In the years following the Players Association has grown into so much more than what Cousy and Sharry could possibly have dreamed of. Who knows where the NBA would be today if Cousy and Sharry didn’t reach out to people demanding change in the league at a time it seemed almost impossible they’d get it.

How Is the NBA Players Association Now?

As the “player empowerment era has dawned, it has relied on the NBA players association as its source of power. Guaranteed contracts and rights mean players are able to be more outspoken and demand the things they feel the NBA needs. After all, without the players the NBA is nothing.

The players are taking action on far more than just the league itself, but social issues that are plaguing their communities as well. During the 2020 NBA Finals, then NBPA President Chris Paul announced that over 90 percent of the league had gotten themselves registered to vote for the presidential election. Compared to the 2016 election, only 20 percent of active players were registered to vote. Paul had one upped himself by mentioning that 15 teams had all of their players fully registered as well. But voting wasn’t the only social issue that they started to tackle. The NBPA wanted to take certain actions in the lock down induced NBA Bubble such as writing any phrase or name that they wanted to on the back of their jerseys instead of just their last name and having “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned across the match courts. Over the years, the NBPA has developed far beyond a way for the players to get payments and conditions they deserve. Now, they try to help the community and aren’t afraid to speak out like some may have been back in the day. This is a different league because of the players. They are the reason that the sport has just gotten more and more fun to watch each and every year. The NBPA is run by an executive committee, below we explain who and that this body is.

NBPA Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is formed of 9 members:

President, First Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer and six additional Vice-Presidents. The terms of office for the President and First Vice-President are four years while the Secretary-Treasurer and Vice-Presidents serve three year terms.

Members of the Executive Committee are elected by their peers at the Board of Player Representatives Meetings. Any union member who is in good standing and signed to a Standard NBA Contract is eligible to run for a position on the Executive Committee.

The duties of the Executive Committee include but are not limited to:

  • Directing NBPA affairs and the policy-making decisions necessary to carrying out the NBPA’s work
  • Reviewing and voting on all matters requiring player approval between meetings of the Board of Player Representatives
  • Participating in all telephonic conferences convened by the President and/or requested by the Executive Director
  • Sharing the duties and responsibilities of the Board of Player Representatives

The Current NBA PA is made up of the following people:

NBPA Executive Committee
PresidentCJ McCollum
First Vice-PresidentAndre Iguodala
Secretary-TreasurerHarrison Barnes
Vice-PresidentsBismack Biyombo
Vice-PresidentsMalcolm Brogden
Vice-PresidentsJaylen Brown
Vice-PresidentsKyrie Irving
Vice-PresidentsGarrett Temple
Vice-PresidentsGrant Williams

As the governing body of the union, the Board of Player Representatives is comprised of one player representative from every team. At the beginning of each season, players from each team elect a single player representative along with an alternate to serve on the Board for that season.

The duties of a Player Representative include but are not limited to:

  • Serving as the team’s delegate during all Player Representative meetings
  • Each Representative is entrusted to speak on behalf of his teammates and report back any relevant and necessary information addressed during meetings
  • Nominating and electing Executive Committee Members
  • Selecting the Executive Director of the union

The NBPA is managed by an Executive Director, a non-player, who’s full time job is to manage the affairs of the NBPA.

The Executive Director of the union is appointed by the Board of Player Representatives and the Executive Committee.

The duties of The Executive Director include but are not limited to:

  • Directing all the affairs of the union on a day-to-day basis
  • Executing all policies of the union
  • Conducting the collective bargaining relationship between the union and the NBA
  • Supervising the administration and enforcement of the Player Agent Regulations program

The current NBPA Executive Director is Tamika L. Tremaglio.

Tremaglio began her 4-year term as executive director in January 2022. Prior to joining the NBPA, she worked for Deloitte as the Managing Principal for the Greater Washington Area.

One of the biggest contributions the NBPA brings to the NBA is it’s negotiation of the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. The foundation for almost everything that happens in the modern NBA.

What is the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement?

The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed on following negotiations between the NBA Franchise Owners and the NBPA. It sets out the terms and conditions of employment for all professional basketball players playing in the NBA, as well as the respective rights and obligations of the NBA Franchises, the NBA, and the NBPA. The current Agreement was ratified following negotiations in December 2016. It came into force on July 1, 2017 and expires at the end of the 2023-24 NBA season. The previous agreement came into force in 2011 and ran until the end of the 2015-16 season. As with all union negotiations of this nature, whenever the NBA Collective bargaining agreement is up for negotiation, there is the chance of a workers strike. In NBA terms, this is known as a lock out. There have been 4 occurrences of a lockout happening in NBA history. The most recent being 2011.

  • 1995 – lasted for three months before the 1995–96 season
  • 1996 – lasted for a couple of hours before the 1996–97 season
  • 1998–99 – lasted over 6 months and shortened the season to 50 games.
  • 2011 – lasted 5 months forcing the 2011–12 season to be shortened to 66 games.

Both players and owners wish to avoid lockdowns, as no games, mean no revenue. This is especially costly when it comes to TV broadcast contracts. However, some issues are so important that the NBPA cannot back down and until the owners can find a way to meet them at a mutual consensus point the gyms remain silent.

Do Other Professional Sports Leagues Have a Players Association?

Yes, almost every single professional sports league in the United States has some type of Players Association. The MLB, MLS, NBR, NFL, NHL and NBA all have these types of groups formed to keep the league a better place. Starting off with the MLB, their group is a representative of the collective bargaining agreement for all current players. They help out with salary issues and any other grievances that they may have with the league. The MLS was created with the hopes to “empower the players by establishing a supportive community and unified voice that positively impacts the lives of our past, current and future members.” The NBR is a bit of a wild card. They are the National Basketball Referees Association and are there to help out after poor conditions and horrible pay were being provided to past officials. The NFL has a very similar purpose to both the MLB and the NHL league as you might expect. Then finally, we have the Women’s National Basketball Players Association. This is a special one because it is the only labor union in a professional sports league that is composed of nothing but female athletes. The creation of it was a huge step forward and was a positive sign for other leagues as well. These Players Associations aren’t just around for one league while the others fight amongst themselves. All leagues put players’ associations together to ensure that their players remain happy and that they get the pay they deserve for playing their respective sport. We mentioned it a few times before, but without these unions locked into place for each of these leagues, it would feel like we are living in a different world. Expect these labor unions to continue to advance and grow in popularity amongst the players. We have seen them all take such large steps the last few years, and that likely won’t change anytime soon.