On the latest Sporticast episode, hosts Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams chat with Ron Klempner, senior counsel for the NBA Players Association, about a recent trove of documents uncovered in the union’s archives. Detailed in a Sportico story this week, the documents include original player contracts, draft letters and lockout votes that show just how much the NBA has grown as a business in the last few decades.
Klempner, who has spent roughly three decades with the NBPA, discusses a handful of documents that have specific importance for him. One is the letter that a young Kobe Bryant wrote to then-commissioner David Stern stating his desire to enter the 1996 NBA Draft. Bryant was 17 at the time, so his parents also signed on his behalf. As another example, Klempner discusses the Kevin Garnett contract that eventually led to the 1998-99 NBA Lockout, a labor fight that set the stage for maximum contracts.
Today, the equivalent of these documents are all digital. Draft declarations are done via email, and approved contracts are sent to the union as computer files, not sheets of paper. That means the NBPA archives capture a very specific moment in NBA history, when the league was growing into the entertainment and cultural juggernaut that it is today. Klempner said some of the uncovered gems could appear in the basketball Hall of Fame, or in collections for specific players such as Bryant.