Sterling saga reveals players' power

Still, they won. Whether they truly would have walked or not, the threat of power was enough, as was the recognition that on this issue, turning jerseys inside-out just wouldn't do. During the days of heightened racial tension in a league that is 78 percent black, the end result was not task forces and committees but a revolutionary step: the end of Sterling's 33-year reign, the first owner banned for life from an American professional team sport. Silver is being praised, and he should be, for there was a time when the owners might have fought for Sterling simply because he was an owner. But real power is never given. It must always be taken. Jerseys turned inside-out became James, KD, John Wall and Paul texting and organizing a mass boycott of the playoffs. The threat of power made a wildcat strike unnecessary. This time.

Instead of revolution, the players believed in the notion of the NBA family and in Silver, even though the day will come when a collective bargaining agreement will expire and he will be their adversary. They believed in Silver even though they had no input in his hiring and have no input in his successor, proof that their power is not yet realized. They believed in relationships. Magic Johnson has called Rivers every day since Saturday. Silver confirmed the power of Rivers, Paul and Kevin Johnson at the podium. The players believed Silver would make it right, and he understood the consequences of coming up small. Maybe the end of Donald Sterling was an example of what America does best: isolating the bad apple while keeping the mechanism in place, and now the players can return to cashing the checks and calling owners "Mister." Or maybe the players finally saw the possibilities of their muscle, and what the playing field might look like if they actually used it.

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