Hunter has led union since 1996

With labor negotiations looming, NBA players have given their union chief a five-year extension.

Billy Hunter, executive director of the players' union, extended his contract through the 2009-10 season, the Bloomberg News reported Sunday.

"As we go through negotiations, the extension is an
affirmation of the players' belief in what I've done," Hunter
told Bloomberg News.

Union president and Indiana Pacers forward Michael Curry told Bloomberg News that the contract was approved during the All-Star break in Denver. Neither he nor Hunter would disclose financial terms of the deal, but Hunter was making about $1.5 million a year, according to recent government filings.

Hunter, who has held the post since 1996, is credited for helping the players get through the 1998-99 lockout, which wiped out nearly half the season. Since Hunter took over, the players have also seen their average salary grow from $2.3 million to $4.9 million.

"He's done a great job of keeping everybody informed," Curry told Bloomberg News. "He's educated the players on the business of basketball."

The league's seven-year labor agreement expires at the end of June. Both Hunter and NBA Commissioner David Stern say they're optimistic on agreeing on a contract before the end of the regular season.

But both sides have said the differences that remain are
substantial, and Hunter has gone so far as to describe some of the
owners' demands as "repugnant" in meetings with his membership.

Among the items the owners and players differ on are the
league's desire to raise the minimum age from 18 to 20, the use of
the NBDL as a minor league to which young NBA players could be
assigned to, and the percentage of overall league revenues that
will be devoted to player salaries.

"I may be combining reality with hope, but I think there will
be a deal by the end of the season," Stern said during the All-Star break.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.