The National Basketball Players Association needed to find leadership, poise and veteran experience in their search for a new president.
Safe to say it sounds like they've found the perfect man for the job:
Los Angeles Clippers superstar Chris Paul, who had previously served as an NBPA vice president, will take over for Derek Fisher, and ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that veteran free agent Roger Mason Jr. will serve as Paul's right-hand man:
NBPA announced Chris Paul has been voted president & Roger Mason elected first vice president at meeting today in Vegas— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 22, 2013
Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake were also elected as vice presidents, according to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt.
Paul, a six-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA performer, is the most accomplished player to hold the position since Patrick Ewing's term ended in 2001. He's the face of a franchise in one of the league's premier markets and a strong leader who Zillgitt says already has the respect of both players and the league office.
His ability to perform under pressure, a staple to his ascent through the superstar ranks, will be put to the test immediately in his new position. He takes over a union shrouded in turmoil, as former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter's lawsuit against Fisher, the NBPA and Jamie Wior, Fisher's publicist, for defamation and breach of contract remains unsettled.
Paul's approach to his new position is really no different than the one he takes to the hardwood every night. The eight-year veteran, who's already climbed inside the game's top-50 assist leaders of all time, naturally plans to involve his peers early and often, via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:
Chris Paul: "I think my top priority is to get as much involvement as possible from our players."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) August 22, 2013
Solidarity is a must for this group after the disastrous 2011 labor negotiations. As those sessions dragged on and eventually forced the league into a condensed 66-game regular season, Tolliver described the players union as being split right down the middle to the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda.
Part of that fracture may have stemmed from a leadership core that was clearly tumultuous in hindsight. Paul and his support staff can go a long way toward avoiding a similar schism by carefully selecting the new executive director. Zillgitt reports the union plans to hire a search firm to aid them in the process.
But perhaps Paul's strongest play to ensure true unification is by keeping his fellow players engaged at every step along the way. As Paul told Bontemps, the support of his peers is the main reason why he thinks he can handle the position:
Chris Paul: "I wouldn’t have taken this job on if it was me doing it alone."— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) August 22, 2013
Paul is a natural leader, but more than that, he's a superstar presence in a league defined by the presence of superstars. He doesn't need to find ways to grab the attention of the game's elites; he's been a part of that core throughout his eight-year tenure in the league.
The league office and the NBA owners know who really drives their revenue. The next time they sit down at the negotiating table they'll come face-to-face with one of those cash cows, a number of them really, if Paul has his way.
While these players should have the loudest voices in the room, though, their collective message should carry a more universal appeal to the players union. Paul might look like a natural fit for this job, but even he would struggle to find any lasting power without universal support of the rank and file.
From what Paul told CBS Sports, that support will be mutual:
Paul: "It's not about me as president or the first vice president, it's about the players as a whole."— Eye on Basketball (@EyeOnBasketball) August 22, 2013
A leader is often only successful as his supporting staff allows him to be. Paul understands that concept as well as anyone and will use it to guide him on yet another masterful NBA run.