Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul became the highest profile player in more than a decade to head the National Basketball Players Association, as he was elected president Wednesday after a two-day meeting in Las Vegas.
Paul, a vice president on the union's executive board for the past four years, is the biggest star to lead the group since Patrick Ewing in 2001. He begins his 18-month term replacing Derek Fisher, who had been president since 2006, with the NBPA in turmoil after 18 months of in-fighting, firings and lawsuits.
The move came as somewhat of a surprise as free agent Roger Mason had been the only candidate who announced publicly he intended to run for Fisher's position. Mason was elected as first vice president .
"I've been thinking about (running) for a while on and off," said Paul, who earlier this summer re-signed with the Clippers on a five-year, $107 million deal. "I've had a lot of dialogue about it with committee members. I wouldn't have taken on the role if I was going to do it alone."
Paul's most important job now will be to guide the union through the process of selecting a replacement for Billy Hunter, who was fired as NBPA executive director in February. Neither Paul nor Jerry Stackhouse, who had been a union vice president before resigning his position this week, would commit to a timetable or discuss whether a search firm was in place to do that.
"We're in no rush," said Stackhouse, a free agent who plans to remain with the union in an advisory role. "We've identified a number of (candidates)."
The union would like to have a new executive director in place before Feb. 1, when Adam Silver will take over as NBA commissioner. There are a number of issues from the 2011 collective bargaining agreement that were tabled and need resolution. Those include blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs, including HGH, and the age limit to enter the draft, which currently is 19.
"For us, it's all about getting our house in order and making sure that everything moves right in that direction," Paul said.
After the 2011 lockout that resulted in the players giving up a portion of revenue to owners in addition to harsher luxury tax rules that will limit spending, there's been a growing frustration within the union. Subsequently, the union's executive committee voted to oust Fisher as president, an order he ultimately ignored, and an independent investigation revealed Hunter had misused union funds, which led to his firing.
In an interview with ESPN two weeks ago, LeBron James said he considered running for president because the union had been "going backward." James, a close friend of Paul, ended up deciding not to run after discussing it with Paul, among others. James did not attend the meetings in Las Vegas.
Overall, sources said, the meeting was lightly attended by union members. The votes for president were cast by representatives from each team.
In addition to Paul and Mason, Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake and Charlotte Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver were voted in as new members to the executive committee. The Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala, the Miami Heat's James Jones, the San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner and the Clippers' Willie Green are also on the executive committee but were not up for re-election.
"We're excited about the road ahead," Paul said. "It was something I saw as a challenge, something I knew I'd be able to handle. It's an unbelievable opportunity, a lot of responsibility comes with this position."