How the Chris Paul Trade Veto Shaped the Modern NBA

How the Chris Paul Trade Veto Shaped the Modern NBA

Originally published June 2nd, 2017

Earlier this week, former NBA commissioner David Stern made headlines by retreading one of the most controversial moments of his career: his veto of a trade sending point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. A seminal, watershed moment in NBA history, it is one of the only times the commissioners’ office has struck down a trade after it had been confirmed and released to the public.

Trades fall apart all the time, but this one wasn’t the fault of a risk-averse GM or a failed physical. The nebulous term “basketball reasons” stands in history as the only reasoning the league office provided – more memetic than informative some six years later.

Stern’s decision was felt league-wide, prompting discussions of collusion and league interference. Was this some kind of conspiracy against the Lakers? Was this Stern’s way of combating the creation of super-teams to preserve competitive balance? How much did the other owners have to do with all of it? The choice obviously affected Stern, Paul, and every team involved, but the passage of time has shown us that its reach extended much further than anyone could have anticipated.

What Went Down?

December 2011

The NBA’s first and longest labor strike since 1999 had just ended, pre-empting free agency, the preseason and the first month of the new season. A new CBA now signed and ratified, all 30 teams were hustling to fit an entire offseason plan and program into three weeks before the start of the season on Christmas Day. The Los Angeles Lakers were coming off a year where they were swept by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. They looked surprisingly old and worn down in the process, prompting a desire to get younger players on the roster. Management believed they could make one more run to the Finals with guard Kobe Bryant, and they were eager to make moves as quickly as possible to reload instead of rebuild.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, then-26 year old point guard Chris Paul had grown disillusioned with the direction of the then-Hornets franchise. New Orleans had ridden Paul’s near-MVP candidacy and 22/11/6 averages to the playoffs and a six-game loss to the aforementioned Lakers in the first round. Paul, now desperate for just the chance to win a ring, had already indicated to general manager Dell Demps that he would not sign an extension with the Hornets, instead choosing to pursue free agency. The team was worried about the possibility of losing Paul for nothing the following summer, so Demps began to actively pursue trade opportunities, knowing all the while that the league office, as the team’s de-facto owners, would have to both sign off on and subsequently approve any deal he made, acting in two capacities.

On December 8th, the same day the lockout officially ended, a three team trade was submitted to the league offices that proposed the following: the Lakers would receive Chris Paul, the Houston Rockets would get forward Pau Gasol, and the Hornets would receive Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, a future first round pick and second round pick. The Lakers would have gotten an All-Star, MVP caliber backcourt mate for Kobe Bryant while shedding almost $21 million in salary between Odom and Gasol. The Hornets would have received a king’s ransom for Paul including an adept PG replacement in Dragic and reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Odom. In addition to receiving Gasol, the Rockets would shed $13 million in salary, which they planned to use on signing center Nene Hilario away from the Denver Nuggets.

Hours later, commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade at the behest of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, among others. The Hornets ownership structure at the time was such that all 29 remaining owners had a $300 million stake in the team, temporarily keeping the team financially solvent while the league pursued a sale. Stern, at the time, cited “basketball reasons” for vetoing the trade, stating he believed the Hornets were not getting adequate competitive compensation for Paul.

Six days later, on December 15th, the Los Angeles Clippers completed a trade with the Hornets, sending Paul to the opposite side of Staples Center in exchange for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, two future second round picks and the rights to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2012 first round pick, unprotected.

That series of events, however benign they seem in retrospect, literally changed the course of the modern NBA. Sports are full of enough “what if’s” as it is, but this added an entirely new level of intrigue to almost anything and everything that came after it. Basketball is full of little “Flashpoint”-style moments like this (What if Portland had taken Jordan? What if Len Bias never overdosed on cocaine? What if Shaq stayed in Orlando?), but this was different. It felt important, immense and transitional AS it was happening as opposed to in retrospect because it wasn’t a “What if this had happened? mystery. It was “Why wouldn’t they LET this happen?” which goes hand in hand with creating a conspiracy theory. It is likely that not only careers and legacies were affected by this, but championship destinies. However, it’s one thing to say that, but every math teacher I’ve ever had always said, “If you want people to believe you, you’ve gotta show your work.”

What Came Next?

The Hornets/Pelicans

Besides changing their name to appease Michael Jordan and opening the worst named arena in sports, the Smoothie King Center, New Orleans is not in a much different place than it was six years ago. They are still a lottery team searching for an identity in the post-Chris Paul era, having made the playoffs once in that span only to be swept by the Golden State Warriors. None of the players acquired in the trade are still members of the team. Chris Kaman left the following year to join the Mavericks, with Aminu following him there two years later in 2014. Eric Gordon managed to last the longest, but through no fault of his own. A restricted free agent following the 2012 season, Gordon signed a $58 million offer sheet with the Suns that would have had him on a plane to Phoenix, but New Orleans opted to match the offer. Plagued by knee, shoulder and hand injuries through the rest of his tenure, Gordon never found his footing in New Orleans, steadily regressing from his 20 PPG average in 2011 to a career low 13.4 PPG in his penultimate season. He eventually left for Houston where he experienced a resurgent, career year in their pace and space offense.

The draft pick the Hornets inherited from the T-Wolves eventually became the #10 pick in the 2012 draft. The Hornets had the added benefit of winning the lottery that year and used the #1 pick on Kentucky center and National Player of the Year Anthony Davis. They used the #10 pick on Duke PG Austin Rivers, who went on to have the worst statistical shooting season for a rookie in league history (35% on 3PTs, 38% on 2 PTS, eFG% of 40%). Davis, to his credit, has been a revelation and a bonafide Hall of Fame caliber player – when healthy. He has been plagued by several different injuries since his rookie season and has yet to play a full 82 game season in his NBA career.

The Lakers

The team hit hardest by all of this – that absolutely no one outside of Los Angeles feels sorry for – is the Lakers. They’ve gone from a championship contender to league-wide punchline in the six years since the veto. In the immediate aftermath, the team had to deal with still having players on their roster that they had openly tried to trade. For Pau Gasol, this was nothing new but this was especially difficult for the emotionally fragile Odom, who had come to love life in LA with then-wife Khloe Kardashian. Odom was so hurt and disillusioned by it all – saying he felt “disrespected” – that he immediately requested a trade to a contending team. Three days after the veto, on December 11th, the Lakers obliged and sent Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for a first round draft pick and $8.9 million trade exception. His career never recovered, and at present, there are more grave concerns for his personal life than his basketball future after a near-death experience at a Las Vegas brothel in 2016.

The Lakers soldiered on in the lockout-shortened season, eventually winning their division and making the playoffs as a three seed. They needed seven games to defeat the Denver Nuggets in round 1, then were soundly defeated 4-1 in the next round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The following summer, the team would successfully execute another set of gargantuan trades for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. The season that followed was nothing short of an abject disaster. The team started 0-5 (0-13 if you count the preseason) which led to the firing of coach Mike Brown, who was hastily replaced by Mike D’Antoni. He fared little better, as Steve Nash fractured his leg in the team’s 2nd game and missed the next 25 and Dwight Howard’s offseason back surgery had more of a lingering effect than anticipated. Compounding the issue, Howard was highly reticent to run the pick-and-roll offense with Nash when both were healthy, leading to friction with incumbent Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant. Forever the lone wolf, Bryant attempted to will the team to the playoffs by himself, averaging 35/6/5 after the All-Star Game, but playing 45 minutes per night. This effort eventually became too much and, in a late season game against the Warriors, Bryant ruptured his left Achilles tendon after being fouled on a drive to the basket. Though he made his free throws and exited the court on his own power, Bryant was never the same afterwards, never again playing a full season, averaging more than 22 PPG or shooting above 45%.

Dwight Howard left for the Rockets in free agency following the season, never finding any footing in LA or a fruitful relationship with Kobe. Pau Gasol left for the Chicago Bulls, never receiving the full appreciation he deserved from Laker fans or management. Nash retired a year later, his leg injury having caused nerve damage that extended into his already wonky lower back. The Lakers have mired in lottery hell for four consecutive years since, losing more games in that span than they had in their entire existence up to that point. Kobe retired after the 2016 campaign, and the team enters this year’s draft with a new president and GM – Laker legend Magic Johnson and agent Rob Pellinka – and the #2 pick (again).

The Clippers

The Clippers appear like the obvious winners in all of this, in spite of the fact that their mascot is a boat, but appearances can be deceiving. This has been the longest sustained period of success for the team in their history, but they have little more than two second round playoff exits to show for it. Forever desperate to shed the label of a “cursed” franchise, the Clippers were given the golden opportunity to rebrand following the deal. They dubbed the collective of Paul and high-flying big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan “Lob City” seizing on a section of the LA basketball watching populace who simply enjoy cheering for winner, and had filled the Lakers’ bandwagon for years (and would go on to fill Golden State’s to capacity).

In 2013, two years after acquiring Paul, the Clippers traded a first round pick to the Boston Celtics for coach Doc Rivers, also naming him their president of basketball operations. The team flourished both on the court and in the public sphere – with Paul and Griffin in more commercials than the rest of the league combined. Paul, in particular, found success with a nerdy, insurance salesman alter ego named Cliff Paul in commercials for State Farm.

In 2014, following a protracted public saga involving a mistress with no first name, a surgical mask, a secret tape recording and, for some reason, Magic Johnson, the Clippers’ penny-pinching, anthropomorphized raisin of an owner, Donald Sterling, was forced to sell the team to Microsoft bigwig Steve Ballmer. Since the Paul trade, the Clips have averaged 50 wins per season, but none of that success seems to translate into the postseason due to one collapse after another:

  • 2012 [Paul’s 1st season]: Defeated Grizzlies in seven games, swept by Spurs in 2nd round
  • 2013: Dropped a 2-0 lead, and lost to the Grizzlies in the First Round
  • 2014: The Sterling saga occurs in the middle of the 2nd round, team loses a late lead in G5 and eventually the 2nd round series to the Thunder
  • 2015: Lost a 22 point 4th quarter lead to Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and the Rockets’ bench. Went on to lose G7 and the series.
  • 2016: Blake Griffin misses a large portion of the regular season after punching an equipment manager and breaking his hand. He returns, but both he and Chris Paul are injured against the Trail Blazers, dropping a 2-0 lead and the series in the first round
  • 2017: Blake Griffin injures his toe, and Chris Paul shows his age as the Utah Jazz defeat the team in seven games, including a G7 in Staples Center

The team heads into this offseason uncertain, with both Paul and Griffin able to opt-out of their contracts for new long-term deals. While the expectation is that both with re-sign, it remains to be seen how a contending team will be built around them with little cap space and a dribble-dominant offense in a league now built on pace-and-space.

The Rockets

If the Clips are an obvious winner, the Rockets come in at a very close second. After the Lakers trade was vetoed, Houston played out the season and regrouped in the summer, managing to snag Dwight Howard from LA in free agency. Further into the fall, an even bigger fish was snagged: one James Harden. Coming off a season where his team made the Finals and he won Sixth Man of the Year, Harden was a hot commodity with superstar buzz. Nobody knew what he could do with a starting role, but the tools for greatness were clearly all available to him. Despite a poor showing in the Finals, the Thunder had offered Harden a 4 year extension worth between a reported $52 and $55 million. Harden declined to sign, citing that the offer was lower than the $60 million maximum he was seeking. Unable to offer anything more without amnestying Kendrick Perkins misguided $36 million extension, the Thunder faced a similar predicament to the Hornets: trade Harden now or risk losing him for nothing in free agency. With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant also eligible for extensions, the Thunder finally opted for a Harden trade with weeks to go before the 2012-2013 season. Houston pounced on their desperation, receiving Harden, Daequan Cook, Cole Aldrich and Lazer Hayward in exchange for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first round picks and a second round pick.

Since then, Harden has morphed into a perennial MVP candidate, the leader of a renaissance in Houston basketball. Though he struggled to mesh with Dwight Howard on and off the court, and who hasn’t really, Harden presents a complete and devastating offensive game that is singular throughout the league. He lead Houston from also-ran status to the Western Conference Finals within two years of his arrival. Howard departed for Atlanta last summer, and fellow Lakers castaway Mike D’Antoni replaced Kevin McHale as the Rockets’ head coach. Moving Harden to point guard, D’Antoni implemented elements of his “Seven Seconds or Less” offense from the mid-2000s Phoenix Suns to great success. Though, Houston flamed out spectacularly against the Spurs in the 2017 playoffs but the future seems bright.

What If….?

We’ve covered the immediate aftermath, but how could this one trade really affect the trajectory of an entire league?

Let’s imagine a world in which Chris Paul becomes a Laker in December of 2011. The Western Conference unfolds much differently in the years that follow. The Lakers were a three seed without him. It seems odd to put them any lower than a 4 seed with Chris Paul. If Kobe has Chris Paul by his side against Ty Lawson and Russell Westbrook, does he have a better chance in the 2012 playoffs? Couldn’t that team have beating the Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals? Think about what that does for Chris Paul. The whole narrative of “He can’t even make it to the conference finals” disappears almost immediately. Unburdened Chris Paul would have been an interesting player to watch for the past 5 years as opposed to the one we have now, who feels solely responsible to his teams successes and failures, right or wrong.

Even if we assume the results are the same for that playoff run, the summer of 2012 unfolds much differently. Do the Lakers still go after Dwight Howard via trade or are they more interested in waiting for his potential free agency, confident that their core is attractive enough to lure him their way? If Paul opts in to the last two years of his deal with the Lakers, as he did with the Clippers, is Kobe’s last gargantuan $42 million deal ever a reality? And without it, are the Lakers as hamstrung in free agency as they were in reality? They’re given opportunities to make runs at LaMarcus Aldridge and Carmelo Anthony, but this time with Chris Paul and Kobe signed to affordable contracts. What kind of Lakers team are we looking at now, and what does that mean for the careers of the players they eventually drafted – Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram?

With no need for a point guard, the Lakers never make the ill-fated trade for Steve Nash. Upon demanding a trade from the Phoenix Suns, Nash’s only other preferred destinations were the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. Let’s assume the price for Nash is too steep for the Knicks and he’s traded back to his hometown of Toronto. Nash fractured his left leg in the second game of that Lakers’ season. Would that have happened in Toronto? And if it didn’t, how does his career end? Nash is beloved in his native Canada, and it’s not out of bounds to believe he may have transitioned into coaching or the front office had he made the move to the great white North. If Toronto has a healthy Nash, do they pull the trigger on the Kyle Lowry trade or does Houston trade him to the Knicks? Houston was ready to part ways with Lowry at this point, not believing he would ever actualize his All-Star potential. If Lowry ends up in Manhattan, there is no “We the North” iteration of the Raptors as currently constitued, and there are some grave implications for people who’s only connection to basketball is Drake. Now we have Nash on the Raptors and Lowry on the Knicks. If Carmelo Anthony has Kyle Lowry by his side as opposed to a revolving door of below average, past-their-prime point guards, how does the last five years of his career play out? Is Kyle Lowry at the same level of motivation in NY that he reached in the isolation of The Six? How do we view Phil Jackson the GM if he passes on Nash and gets Kyle Lowry? And how does Kristaps “The Latvian Gangbanger” Porzingis fit into all of this?

New Orleans was tied with Cleveland for the 3rd-worst record in the league (21-45) following the Paul trade. Excluding players included in either version of the trade, vetoed or completed, the bare bones of their 2011 roster included Trevor Ariza, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Grevis Vasquez and Marco Bellinelli. All role players, sure, but not bad ones. If we added Odom, Dragic, Martin and Scola to that lineup, are they better than the addition of Gordon, Kaman and Aminu? I’m going to assume the answer is yes. Even if we estimate a conservative +5 difference in wins, this decreases their chances at the #1 pick from 13.7% to a paltry 1.1%. In this scenario, it is much more likely that the team with the worst record/highest odds, the Bobcats-cum-Hornets, would win the lottery and the right to draft “The Brow”. Does Davis re-sign in Charlotte like he did New Orleans, creating a 1-2 punch with Kemba Walker? Does he sign elsewhere? How does his career progress without the guiding hand of Monty Williams, whom he credits extensively for his offensive growth?

The Hornets’ pick was slated to land at #3 or #4, depending on the bounce of the ping pong balls, had their win total remained unchanged. Here is a short list of notable players, other than Davis, selected in the top 10 that year: Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Terrence Ross, Dion Waiters, Andre Drummond. And while it’s tempting to include Draymond Green in this list, it would seem to be a little disingenuous to inflate his draft stock then based on what we know now. It should be assumed that the draft would play out as normal. The Hornets lose out on Davis, yes, but are granted a do-over for Austin Rivers, replacing him with Lillard or Beal if they are drafting as high as three. That drastically affects the development of John Wall, who is left without a a true running mate/motivator in Washington, and/or CJ McCollum, who may never find a home as Damian Lillard multiplier that he has become.

Houston would have inherited Pau Gasol, who was coming off of an All-Star season, but would actually have ended up saving $13 million by shedding Martin, Scola and Dragic’s contracts. GM Daryl Morey opted to stand pat after the veto, making no other moves of significance other than a trade deadline deal sending Jordan Hill for the Lakers’ Derek Fisher, whom they immediately bought out. If the Rockets are spotted the additional cap space, they might have gone on to sign Nene, who instead signed a misguided $68 million extension with Denver.

Houston would still have the money and assets to go after Harden, regardless of how the trade turned out, but its constitution would have been different. Pau Gasol was a free agent that summer. In reality, he left the Lakers for Chicago, and openly flirted with the idea of signing with the Thunder, who showed mutual interest. Its entirely possible that the Rockets would look to include Gasol’s expiring contract, still an asset in the days before the cap spike, in any trade to the Thunder in lieu of Kevin Martin, now a Hornet. If that’s the case, what kind of damage does a Thunder team with Westbrook, Durant AND Gasol do? Does OKC beat San Antonio in the 2013 WCF and make back-to-back Finals? And if they then managed to upend Miami, what does that mean for them and the Lebron-led Heat in 2014 and beyond? Are we still reading an article about LeBron coming home to Cleveland in 2014?

The Clippers would never get Chris Paul in this alternate reality and remain the red-headed stepbrother to the Lakers’ starting quarterback golden child. Blake Griffin signed a $95 million extension before the 2012 season once Paul had been acquired. But if Paul isn’t there, does he sign an extension that long or that lucrative? Does he sign one at all? Griffin has made no secret out of enjoying life in LA, so would he have given some thought to jumping across the hall and joining Paul, Bryant and the Lakers? The Clippers made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 in Paul’s first season. If the Clippers never make that quick turnaround, is Blake making All-Star and All-NBA teams? How different is his career trajectory with Eric Gordon and Vinny Del Negro instead of Doc Rivers and Chris Paul?

Doc Rivers forced a trade from the Celtics to the Clippers in part because he was not interested in overseeing a rebuild after the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce was disbanded. How interested is he in this scenario with no Chris Paul? Is Blake Griffin and the GM job enough to entice him? Or does Detroit give him the deal they eventually gave Stan Van Gundy? Does he try to pull off the unthinkable and jump to the Lakers instead so he can still coach Paul? Or does he simply stay in Boston for the remainder of his contract? If Doc is still there to keep him in check, does Rajon Rondo retire a Celtic? What does this mean for Brad Stevens? If Doc never leaves, do the Celtics ever come calling? And if they don’t, is he still at Butler or, more likely, does another NBA team snap him up?

Occurring simultaneous to the Chris Paul trade drama was the protracted “Dwight-mare” saga in Orlando. Dwight Howard, citing the Magic’s inability to build a contender around him, demanded a trade from Orlando to either the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers or Dallas Mavericks. He was eligible to opt out of his contract at season’s end and become an unrestricted free agent. Hedging all season on what he would or would not say, Howard ended up backing off of his trade demand, and eventually opting into the last year of his contract but reiterating that he would become a free agent unless he was traded to Brooklyn.

One of the conspiracies most often cited – especially by Laker fans – is that David Stern vetoed the Paul trade because the Lakers were able to obtain him without giving up center Andrew Bynum. This would have enabled the Lakers to include Bynum, whom Orlando coveted, in a deal for Howard during the season. Commissioner Stern, already troubled by how LeBron James move to Miami would affect league wide competitiveness, supposedly struck down the Paul deal in an effort to prevent Los Angeles from creating their own “Big 3” of Bryant, Howard and Paul. Once Paul arrived with the Clippers and opted into the last two years of his original contract, that dream was dead and Steve Nash was the eventual ill-fated substitute.

If Paul is traded to the Lakers, there is a possibility, however slim, that the Lakers are left without the necessary assets to trade for Dwight Howard. Admittedly, there is no real confirmation that this was the Lakers’ plan outside of sourced reports and talking head speculation anyway. So, if we assume Howard opts into the last year of his deal again, Los Angeles will have now played two full seasons with a Paul/Bryant backcourt and Andrew Bynum at center. Bynum made his first All-Star game following the veto before being traded to Philadelphia in the Howard deal. Who’s to say the Lakers don’t pass on trading for Howard at all and have a Big 3 of Bynum, Bryant and Paul? This brings us back to Brooklyn. They proffered Orlando’s first trade offer, and were the team Howard intended to sign with had he become a free agent. If the Lakers get Paul, and are subsequently less inclined to trade for or interested in signing Howard, is he in Brooklyn now? And with Howard in the fold, do the Nets feel any pressure to trade their entire future for a one year rental of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? And now, we’re subsequently down another rabbit hole involving every single Celtics draft pick inherited from the Nets deal in the past four years, Pierce, Garnett, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Jason Kidd, the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokoumpo, GM Billy King and Nets owner Mikhail Prohkorhov.



By my count, that’s eleven teams and immeasurably more players and coaches affected by David Stern’s singular decision. Who knows how ring counts would look now, or what player movement would have happened in response to it. Stern’s comments come close to six years after the veto. He riled some feathers by indicating a re-worked version of the trade was still in the works, but the relative incompetence of Laker management scuttled it.

“In the course of the weekend, we thought we could redo the deal,” Stern said. “We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with [Kyle] Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick. Not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.”

For his part, Stern has never before enumerated what changes would have made the trade acceptable, to him or his “basketball people”. To this observer’s eye, the trade seemed well balanced, and would have been more beneficial for the Hornets in the long run by including young players, veterans, expiring deals AND draft picks. To say that Lowry’s inclusion was a sticking point at the time seems disingenuous given that Kyle Lowry then had only shown flashes of where he is now. Dragic was the much more heralded prospect, and had actually been signed away from Phoenix by Houston after “interning” under Steve Nash.

I also find it hard to believe that, in their appeal following the veto, the Lakers had no secondary version of the trade ready, even one that didn’t include Odom. They still had Gasol – the same age and position as Odom and someone they had dangled in trade rumors for years – and Bynum, who was younger, if slightly more injury prone. There were multiple other players that could have netted them a high first round pick other than Odom, Kevin Martin chief among them.

The deal they eventually netted left them with near nothing of value to show for it. Their largest success of the post-Paul era – winning the lottery and drafting Davis – had to do in large part with the fact that they WEREN’T actively competitive, going against the letter of the veto. Hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to look back and say the league made the wrong decision, but there’s no way of knowing that for sure without having seen it play out. Any number of those players could have been injured, and there’s no knowing how the rest of the league may have responded to it. The NBA has always been a league of splashy moves, highlighted by the frenzy around free agency, and what may have followed was a league wide course correction to combat the new normal. Because Chris Paul is such a seminal NBA figure, both for the Players’ Association and as a member of LeBron’s inner circle, his player movement probably inspires more response than most others would, on average. That’s the greatest legacy and appeal of the entire saga – it’s a lynchpin for those who dream of a revisionist history of the last six years for the NBA, good and bad.

As it stands today, Chris Paul is a Clipper, commissioner Stern and Kobe have both retired, the Rockets keep plugging happily along, while the Hornets and Lakers are sit side by side in the lottery. Other than archived tweets and photoshopped pictures of Paul in a Laker jersey, there remains only one reminder of that day, now morphed into the most played out fantasy team-name of all time:

“Basketball Reasons”

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