The executive director of the NBPA, Michele Roberts, was interviewed by Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Below you can read the translation of her interview.
"I was born and raised in the Bronx, in the public housing (projects). In my life I have overturned the odds: as a woman, as African-American, grown as a person in poverty. My story is very similar to the players' one, and for this reason they chose me. " The most powerful woman in the NBA is called Michael Roberts, 58 years old, a little more than a year ago named as the executive director the NBPA, the players union. She was a very highly rated lawyer in Washington, but she had basketball in her head (and a season ticket to the Wizards) and convinced over 400 men to trust her, and make her the first female leader of the union of one of the the most important leagues in America. She rebuilt the rubble of the union devastated by misdeeds of her predecessor, Billy Hunter. "When I started many players did not trust the union anymore, now there is not one single day some of them don't show up", she says from her office in Harlem she prepares for the most important task: avoid a new lockout in 2017. A Challenge she already knows how to win.
What has motivated you to apply for the role of Executive Director of the players’ union?
"I was very pleased with the work I did, but when I found out that this role was available I began to dream of being selected. Then I was convinced that I could do it better than anybody else. The first year was beautiful."
How do your private and professional story help you in your job?
"My life was a set of challenges and I believe I share this with the players. I was very poor, are I was raised by my mother in public housing (projects). I had very low chance of success.
But I did it. And this makes it similar to the players, who have close to zero chance to become pros. It helps me that I can identify myself with them.
I passed my last 15 years trying to solve problems with a lot of money on the line. It's a kind of what the Executive Director of the Union should do: of course, is not the same thing, but I am surprised everyday by how many similarities there are. "
What is your relationship with basketball?
"I grew up in a place where basketball was the king of sports. Also if I never played it I was around it 24/7 , thanks also to my two older brothers. I do not pretend be an expert, but I am passionate about it since ever: is the love for this sport that keeps my motivations high".
As soon as you started you declared that the union was divided and not well represented: how is the situation now?
"Many players were skeptical on the importance of the union, especially for the behavior of my predecessor.
We regained credibility and players' confidence."
Who is the most "unionized"?
"The desire to be part of the union is a widespread feeling. There are players completely immersed in the union activities (Chris Paul is the president, LeBron James and the first vice President, and in the executive committee there is also the mvp Steph Curry (editor note)). It would be easy to think that players with huge financial success are not very interested, but it's just the opposite. "
How can the potential lockout be avoided in 2017?
"Sitting down at a table already now with the NBA to understand what worries the owners and what worries the players. In the past very few attempts to speak in advance of the problems that led to the lockouts have been made. Whether Both commissioner Silver and myself want to do everything possible to prevent the NBA to stop: the only way is to negotiate. We have already started, we will meet again in early September with the hope to announce within the end of the season that the union and the league have solved their problems. "
The relationship with the commissioner?
"Good. We are still knowing each other,we are both relatively new in the respective roles, but we are keeping conversations regular."
What would you change if you could, of the CBA?
"At least 10 things, but what I care the most is that players will continue to have a fair share of what enters into the Nba coffers. There is a new TV deal which will bring 24 billion dollars. The popularity is growing, but let's remember that we wouldn't be here without the players."
What do you think of globalization basketball?
"My hope is to be able to beat soccer as the number one popular sport on the planet. It is a dream, I know. But I can't help it".