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Kyrie Irving rumored to suggest players start their own league

Kyrie Irving on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 21: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics speaks in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prior to the start of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 21, 2019. (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

MediaNews Group via Getty Images

UPDATE: This seemed from the start like a leak aimed at discrediting Irving, now comes the report he said no such thing.

Beleive who you want on this one.


It worked so well for the XFL. And the USFL. And the World Football League. And WHA. And... we could go on for a long time here.

Kyrie Irving suggested players start their own league.

Irving has been at the forefront of a coalition challenging the NBA’s restart plan in Orlando — the timing and impact of it on the Black Lives Matter and social justice movements, among other concerns — and he promoted that on a larger conference call last Friday night. He also suggested Nets teammates skip the bubble and floated the idea of the players starting their own league, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

First, the fact someone leaked this to Bondy speaks to the divide among players on the idea of a return, and the willingness of some to discredit Irving.

I doubt even Kyrie Irving thinks his idea to start a league is feasible, especially done right now on the fly. One can make the argument that NBA fans pay to see the players, so if the players just switched jerseys and formed their own league, fans would follow.

It’s not that simple, of course. It is more than just players, the NBA and its teams are established brands — many people are Lakers fans not LeBron James fans, people are Boston Celtics fans not Jayson Tatum fans, people are Miami Heat fans not Jimmy Butler fans, and that list goes on. Fans of those teams embrace a player when they come to the market, but they boo him when he leaves — just ask LeBron or Kevin Durant (or a host of other stars who switched teams).

Plus, the NBA has figured out how to put on a good entertainment product — it’s more than just the games, it’s an experience in the arena. Even just watching a game on TNT, fans hang out after to see what Shaq and Charles will say. The NBA has figured out how to monetize all of that, and while the owners get rich, the players do well for themselves also. Starting a new league would be starting from the ground up to build what the NBA already has (and in many cases, has mastered).

Irving is asking a lot of good questions about the restart of the NBA and the wisdom of it, the safety of it. The answers, however, are just not clean and simple. Much like the idea of players starting a league. It makes this a challenging issue.