Now that LeBron James has abruptly doubled back on his stated interest in becoming the next president of the National Basketball Players Association, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, it looks like the race to replace Derek Fisher (whose term expired this summer) as the figurehead of the NBPA is wide open.
Current vice presidents Jerry Stackhouse and Roger Mason Jr. are both in the running.
And as much fun as it would be to suggest Metta World Peace or Andray Blatche as the next president, it's probably a better idea to take a more serious look at potential candidates for the gig.
It's difficult to overstate the importance of the NBPA's next president. Fisher was widely respected before the 2011 lockout, but after the owners basically ran over the players in negotiations, his exit from the position is something few of his peers are lamenting. Whoever takes charge will have to do a much better job of presenting an organized front against the increasingly powerful owners.
Intelligence, leaguewide respect and a track record of involvement in union activities are all important characteristics that should factor into who winds up taking over.
The Players Association also needs a new executive director to succeed the disgraced Billy Hunter, so whichever candidate wins the presidency will step into a pretty messy situation.
It's going to be a tough job, but a few guys seem like they're up for the challenge.
UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 15, at 4:35 p.m. ET by Grant Hughes
Mason officially announced his candidacy for NBPA president via Twitter. As the only player to formally throw his hat into the ring, he has to be considered the favorite to win the job at this point.
---End of update---
Mason is currently on the NBPA's executive board as a vice president, and he certainly fits the mold of players who've most recently held the presidency.
He's been in the league for nine years but certainly never would have been confused for a star player. Nonetheless, Mason is widely respected throughout the NBA and has clearly shown an interest in the affairs of his union.
It also won't be a problem for Mason to handle the buttoned-up world of press conferences and negotiations. According to Jared Zwerling of ESPN.com, he has been a successful business man in the music industry and was a classically trained pianist at the early age of seven.
The NBPA doesn't necessarily need the talents of a child prodigy, but the business acumen couldn't hurt. Consider Mason the odds-on favorite to get the job.
If the players are looking for a no-nonsense approach from their next president, they could do a lot worse than Stackhouse.
The guy has been in the league for what seems like 100 years (18, actually), and for every second of that lengthy career, Stackhouse has commanded total respect from teammates and opponents. It's also telling that when James made some disparaging comments about the state of the union, it was Stackhouse who clapped back.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, Stackhouse said James was "misinformed," basically insinuating that the MVP should keep his mouth shut until he's willing to engage in a bigger role with the union.
And remember, it was Stackhouse who argued strongly for the ouster of Fisher as president during the 2011 lockout. In one of the most straightforward player-on-player attacks in some time, he openly questioned Fisher's ability to function adequately as president and flat-out called for his removal.
It's worth noting that Stackhouse was elected to the seat of first vice president shortly after his tirade during the lockout, so he clearly has plenty of support already. If he's serious about fixing what he sees as a flawed union, he could drum up presidential votes in a hurry.
Plus, if things got tense with the owners in a future negotiation, you know Stackhouse would never back down from a fight.
You knew this one was coming, right?
Shane Battier is as well-spoken and well-respected a player as there is in the league, and even if most opponents can't stand the way he always steps in to take a charge, he'd be a good guy to take charge of the Players Association.
See what I did there?
Just think of it: Battier could roll into meetings with giant tomes of statistical analysis that outlined the union's best course of action, and afterward, he could take everyone out to Denny's. Meetings would be efficient and understated, but highly productive.
And unlike Stackhouse, Battier wouldn't have to fight anyone when negotiations reached an impasse. He already has the horse's head from his infamous appearance in the Miami Heat's Harlem Shake video, so he could go all Godfather on any disagreeable owners if he had to.
Battier is currently the alternate player representative for the Miami Heat, so he's only a couple of steps away from the executive committee. He'd be a great fit as president.
James Jones has two things working in favor of his candidacy as the NBPA's next president.
First, he already has a position on the executive board as secretary-treasurer. Second, LeBron James would probably throw some support his way if he decided to take a shot at a promotion. After all, Jones is the guy James called to inform that he wouldn't be pursuing the position of president.
Jones isn't anything close to a star, but he's been on a couple of championship teams and has played in four NBA cities, giving him a pretty broad network across the league.
Consider him a potential dark-horse candidate. Of course, if the players use a three-point shooting contest to decide the presidency, his odds improve considerably.
Matt Bonner was a player representative for seven years before earning a nod as one of six vice presidents in the NBPA. He joined the executive committee in 2011 and currently serves with VPs Mason, Stephen Curry, Willie Green, Andre Iguodala and Chris Paul.
There's nothing flashy about Bonner, but he has shown the strongest and most sustained commitment to the union of any potential candidate. Nearing a decade as a highly involved player, he probably knows more about the ins and outs of the business than anyone.
After the somewhat pompous, but ultimately ineffective style of leadership the union got from Fisher, the understated Bonner would be a solid choice.