- Henry Abbott, TrueHoop, NBA
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Lacy Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Chet Walker, who played for the Nationals, Sixers and then Bulls in the 1960s and 70s. Walker, along with Oscar Robertson, once sued the NBA for merging with the ABA and limiting the number of employers who would compete for players' services. That lawsuit helped to contribute to NBA free agency.
Banks says Walker's playing career ended prematurely after he was "blackballed" for his union work.
In any case, Walker's credentials as being pro-player are well established which may help to explain his position on the matter of LeBron James' big decision:
... what incensed Walker the most was [Cleveland owner Dan] Gilbert's boastful guarantee to his fans: ''I personally guarantee that the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former 'King' wins one,'' Gilbert wrote in a statement shortly after James announced his decision Thursday night during a prime-time ESPN special.
''Gilbert's an idiot, and you can quote me,'' Walker said. ''I'm retired, 70 years old and can't nobody bother me for speaking my mind. Who's going to want to come play for Cleveland now that LeBron is gone? But I can see players wanting to come play with LeBron, Wade and Bosh because they'll have a great chance to win a ring.
''Gilbert ought to be grateful, if anything, because for seven years LeBron was the team's cash cow. He made a lot of money for the team and for the city. I can see how Gilbert can be hurt and disappointed. But I don't like the way he and so many other people in the media and elsewhere are ripping LeBron. This kid is the victim of a high-tech lynching. You wouldn't believe the hate I'm hearing on talk radio out here in Los Angeles. I'm really [ticked] off.
''I agree with LeBron's decision, and he had a right to decide his own fate. Players only have a limited time window to get what they want out of their NBA careers. LeBron wants to win a ring now, and after seven seasons, he didn't see the Cavaliers doing enough to make that possible. So he took the initiative, made a hard decision and orchestrated one of the biggest deals in league history. Then he left on his own terms and produced his TV special to announce his decision. I thought the TV program was overplayed, but LeBron had a right to leave the way he wanted to leave.''