And now: a collective “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For weeks, whenever we saw Billy Hunter and David Stern -- respectively, National Basketball Players Association executive director and NBA commissioner -- they were in suits, the suit being, of course, the attire of business, and business being, for 149 days, what both sides of the NBA lockout said they meant. That the lockout lasted as long as it did proved they meant otherwise; and, anyway, on Hunter, a suit always asked, “Where’s my Pineau des Charentes?” Mostly, he and Stern wore suits because what else would they have worn to such high-stakes, high-profile negotiations?
Well, on Saturday, at close to 4 a.m., after a reported 15 hours of hammering out a deal that would end the lockout, we discovered exactly what else. Hunter and Stern sat at the center of a long conference table at a midtown Manhattan law firm. They weren’t in suits. They wore just about the last thing you’d expect from two people who have been as entrenched as they claimed to have been. Both men sat at that table wearing a piece of clothing that totally belied the incompetence and complacency and intransigence on both sides of the lockout, the heartlessness, cluelessness, ruthlessness, and indifference to the sport itself. They wore the tasteful opposite of boardroom business, and they did so in a move that, under the circumstances, can be understood as an act of desperate cynicism, a calculated plea for gratitude, sympathy, and hugs.
At 3:40 a.m., Billy Hunter and David Stern ended the NBA lockout in sweaters.