National Basketball Players Association
HeadquartersNew York City, New York
  • United States
Key people

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) is a labor union that represents National Basketball Association (NBA) players. It was founded in 1954, making it the oldest trade union of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. However, the NBPA did not get recognition by NBA team owners until ten years later. Its offices are located in the historic Park and Tilford Building in New York City.[1] It was briefly a trade association after dissolving as a union during the 2011 NBA lockout.


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Founding and struggle for recognition (1954–1957)

Bob Cousy

In 1954, Celtics star point guard Bob Cousy and friend and unofficial agent Joe Sharry[2] canvassed long-tenured players on each of the league's teams by mail, including the fledgling NBA's stars Paul Arizin and Dolph Schayes, and received support from the majority to approach the NBA President Maurice Podoloff. Cousy and the players sought basic improvements of conditions including being paid for promotional activities, a limit of twenty exhibition games per season, impartial dispute arbitration, and moving expenses for traded players. While back pay for players of folded franchises was granted by Podoloff, the NBA refused to acknowledge the players association or make other changes until Cousy approached the AFL-CIO in 1957 and the players threatened a strike.[3]

Recognition, early successes, stalled negotiations (1957–1964)

After formal recognition by the NBA, the NBPA won its players per diem payments and travel expenses and an increase in the playoff pool payment, and the majority of the previously demanded conditions. In 1958, however, dismayed at the lack of dues payments by players, Cousy would resign his position from frustration.[2] He was succeeded by Celtics second-year player Tom Heinsohn, who had studied labor relations at university and worked as a pension planner for an insurance company in his day job, and whose father was a union official in Union City, New Jersey.[4] Heinsohn began negotiating a pension plan for players, asking $100 per month for five years of service and $200 per month for 10 years of service for players aged over 65.[3] Negotiations stalled with new NBA President Walter Kennedy and the NBP and the league entered a stalemate for most of 1964.

1964 All-Star game strike

At the 1964 NBA All-Star Game in Boston, Heinsohn organised a wildcat strike to force the NBA owners to recognise the union's demands. The game was to be the struggling NBA's first live television broadcast, and the league had to this point ignored the NBPA's demands delivered to league offices during the NBA off-season, and repeatedly refusing to meet with or acknowledge executive director Larry Fleisher as the union's authorized bargaining agent. The NBPA presented the assembled team owners with a list of demands to be met before the All Star game would be played: the pension plan, athletic trainers for every team, and the removal of matinee Sunday games after Saturday night games from the schedule. After 22 minutes of the players holding out in a locker room,[5] the door of which was guarded by a Boston police officer and with owners threatening the players with blacklisting and punishment, league commissioner Walter Kennedy agreed to the player's demands, and the live broadcast went to air after a slight delay.

Salary cap

Main article: NBA salary cap

In 1983, players and owners reached a historic agreement, that introduced the "salary cap" era into professional sports. This was believed[by whom?] to be the first salary cap in any major professional sports league in the United States.

1995 NBA labor dispute

The NBA experienced its first work stoppage, when owners imposed a lockout, that lasted from July 1 through September 12, when players and owners reached an agreement. Because the lockout took place during the off-season, no games were lost.

1998–99 lockout

Main article: 1998–99 NBA lockout

The second NBA lockout, which ran into the 1998–99 season, lasted almost 200 days, and wiped out 464 regular-season games. After players and owners reached an agreement, the season did not start until February 5, 1999, with each of the 29 NBA teams playing a 50-game schedule.

2011 lockout

Main article: 2011 NBA lockout

The current collective bargaining agreement was reached in July 2005, and expired at 12:01 EST on July 1, 2011, following completion of the 2010–11 NBA season, resulting in a lockout, similar to the 2011 NFL lockout. ESPN has reported that the owners and players failed to reach an agreement and broke off negotiations, and that the owners began a lockout immediately after the collective bargaining agreement expired.[6]

On November 14, the NBPA was converted from a union into a trade association, enabling the players as individual employees to be represented by lawyers in a class action antitrust lawsuit against the league, calling the lockout an illegal group boycott.[7][8][9] The NBPA re-formed as a union on December 1, receiving support from over 300 players, exceeding the requirement for at least 260.[10] After the players and owners reached a new agreement, the lockout ended on December 8 and the 2011–12 season began on December 25 with a 66-game schedule.


In February 2013, Billy Hunter was ousted unanimously as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) amid charges of nepotism and other concerns.[11] 17 months later on July 29, 2014, Michele Roberts, a Washington, D.C. litigator, was elected as the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. She became the first female executive director of NBPA and the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America.[12] She would help avoid an opt-out labor dispute from occurring in 2017 with negotiations taking place early in 2016.

In February 2018 at All-Star Weekend, the NBPA unveiled its new marketing and licensing arm, THINK450, the innovation engine of the NBPA.[13] The union controls the intellectual property rights of the 450 players as a group off the court, giving way for brand partnerships and sponsorship opportunities.

After the season had been suspended earlier in the year, on June 5, 2020, the NBPA approved negotiations with the NBA to resume the regular season for 22 teams in the NBA Bubble.[14]

During the 2020 NBA Finals, NBPA President Chris Paul announced that over 90% of NBA players had registered to vote for the 2020 presidential election.[15] He also stated that 15 teams in the league were 100% registered to vote.[16] By contrast, the league only had 20% of players registered to vote in the 2016 presidential election.[15] The players took multiple actions in the NBA Bubble: writing phrases or names on the back of their jerseys to support the Black Lives Matter movement, boycotting games in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, and taking a knee during the national anthem to protest against racial inequality and police brutality.


Executive directors

Alex English was interim executive director in 1988.
Alex English was interim executive director in 1988.


Oscar Robertson served the longest tenure as president, 1965–1974.
Oscar Robertson served the longest tenure as president, 1965–1974.

Vice presidents

Andre Iguodala has been a vice president since 2017.
Andre Iguodala has been a vice president since 2017.
Harrison Barnes is the current secretary-treasurer.
Harrison Barnes is the current secretary-treasurer.

dagger First vice president


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2021)


The NBPA organizes Sportscaster U., an annual broadcasting training camp at Syracuse University in association with the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.[28] In past ten years, hundreds of NBA players have attended this camp, and went on to successful careers in broadcasting.[29]


Main article: NBPA Players Awards

See also


  1. ^ Cindy Hamilton (July 2008). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Park and Tilford Building". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on November 18, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Bradley, Robert. "Labor Pains Nothing New to the NBA". Retrieved February 26, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "About the National Basketball Player's Association". NBPA.com. National Basketball Player's Association. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  4. ^ Bresnaha, Mike (February 16, 2011). "NBA All-Star ultimatum paid off for players". LA Times. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  5. ^ Robertson, Oscar (August 11, 2016). "The Dream Team you've never heard of". Andscape. Retrieved August 27, 2020.
  6. ^ Sheridan, Chris (June 30, 2011). "NBA says it will lock out players". ESPN. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  7. ^ Newcomb, Tim (November 15, 2011). "NBA Players Look to Disband Union: Will There Be a Season At All?". TIME. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011.
  8. ^ Beck, Howard (November 15, 2011). "N.B.A. Season in Peril as Players Reject Offer". The New York Times. p. A1. Archived from the original on June 7, 2022.
  9. ^ Hunter, G. William; Fisher, Derek; The NBPA Executive Committee. "NBPA disclaimer" (PDF). ESPN Internet Ventures. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 15, 2011.
  10. ^ "NBA players authorize return of union". ESPN Internet Ventures. Associated Press. December 1, 2011. Archived from the original on December 3, 2011.
  11. ^ "Hunter voted out as head of NBA players' union". ESPN.com. February 16, 2013.
  12. ^ a b NBA Players Union NBPA elects Michele Roberts as executive director
  13. ^ Beer, Jeff (February 16, 2018). "NBA Players Union Unveils New Marketing Rights Group Think450". Fast Company. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  14. ^ "NBPA approves further negotiations with NBA on 22-team format for season restart". NBA.com.
  15. ^ a b @topballcoverage (October 4, 2020). "Chris Paul reveals that 90% of NBA players are now registered to vote, including 100% of 15 teams. During the last election in 2016, only 20% of the league was registered" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  16. ^ "CP3 says over 90 percent of NBA players have registered to vote". RSN. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  17. ^ "LeBron: NBPA 'not in good place right now'". ESPN.com. August 11, 2013.
  18. ^ a b c "Chris Paul elected NBPA president". CBSSports.com.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h "Chris Paul re-elected as president of the NBPA". NBA.com.
  20. ^ a b c Kaskey-Blomain, Michael (August 8, 2021). "Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum elected new NBPA president, replacing Chris Paul; Celtics' Grant Williams named VP". CBS Sports. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  21. ^ release, Official. "Knicks' Anthony elected to NBPA's Executive Committee". NBA.com.
  22. ^ "Leadership". National Basketball Players Association. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  23. ^ a b c Spillman, Giovanni (February 18, 2019). "Charlotte Hornets: Bismack Biyombo elected as Vice President for NBPA". swarmandsting.com.
  24. ^ "Kyrie Irving Elected to NBPA Executive Committee as Vice President". National Basketball Players Association. Retrieved February 17, 2020.
  25. ^ Zillgitt, Jeff (July 28, 2014). "NBA players set to vote on new executive director Monday". USA Today. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  26. ^ Lopez, Rob (February 17, 2018). "NBPA Elects CJ McCollum as a Vice President, Anthony Tolliver as Secretary-Treasurer". defpen.com. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  27. ^ "Harrison Barnes Elected Secretary-Treasurer, CJ McCollum and Garrett Temple Re-Elected as Vice Presidents to the NBPA Executive Committee". NBPA.com (Press release). March 5, 2021. Retrieved August 29, 2021.
  28. ^ "NBPA Sportscaster U. In 10th Year At Syracuse". Cuse. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  29. ^ "On Court to On Air: How NBA Players Become Broadcasters at Sportscaster U., Now in Its 10th Year - National Basketball Players Association". National Basketball Players Association. June 2, 2017. Retrieved September 5, 2017.