The "NBA 14" Paved the Road that Led to Riches for Today's StarsAnyone who wonders why Oscar Robertson never received coaching or front office opportunities in the NBA should read this great article by the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith. Smith spent some time with former Sixer and Bull Chet Walker, who was one of 14 players--including Robertson--who filed law suits challenging the NBA's economic structure; this resulted in the creation of a free agency system that has enabled today's players to make millions of dollars. Robertson, Walker and several others of the "NBA 14"--including Joe Caldwell--paid a heavy price for their activism, although it is also true that some of them (Bill Bradley, Wes Unseld) do not seem have suffered as much retribution as others.
Smith reports that Walker "is hardly one of those chip-on-the-shoulder old-timers living in the past and looking for a handout. He has done well and mostly is retired now." Walker is somewhat bemused by the ultimate outcome of his efforts as a labor activist during his playing career, telling Smith, "I never thought I'd be saying guys are making too much money. But you hear of these guys rejecting $10 million a year, it's absurd. You can't believe it. I don't have cable, so I don't watch much NBA. But I watch the Lakers. I don't understand these owners, how they evaluate talent. How do you pay Kwame Brown $9 million? Amazing. And these guys think they're making this money because they're great players." Smith writes:
Actually, they're making it in large part because of guys like Walker, who was one of the so-called NBA 14, the group of players that successfully brought on the modern NBA era with the first free agency. Many, like Walker, suffered for it. His career ended prematurely even though he averaged almost 20 points per game his final season for the Bulls in 1974-75.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:47 PM