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Dear Billy 

An Open Letter To NBA Players Association Director Billy Hunter.

DEAR MR. HUNTER: Exactly how much money does one need to be paid in exchange for his acting like a complete idiot in public? Here in Arizona, our legislators will gladly do it for around $20,000 a year. But I figure with your position being so high-profile and national and all, you probably make 35 or 40 grand, maybe more.

You deserve the extra money, that's for sure. Because while our legislators just do stuff like saying they're going to save the schools and then not giving the schools any money, you have to stand up in front of microphones and say stuff like "Why should our players be tested for marijuana? What's wrong with smoking dope?" and "I think's it's perfectly okay for illiterate 18-year-olds to stumble out of high school and try to make it in the NBA."

(Actually you say things like that, not those exact words. I figure what with you pullin' down 40-plus grand a year, you've probably got a lawyer just chomping at the bit to sue somebody. I have to be careful here. Last time I mentioned that lawyers sue people, I got this, like, 27-page letter from some attorney. Thank God he wasn't able to translate the time it took to read it into billable hours.)

Even with the playoffs over, the NBA still managed to make news last week, several times over. First there was the big meeting your union had in the Bahamas. Frankly, I was surprised that there is a union. After the whuppin' you guys took from the owners during the work stoppage this past season, I thought you had decertified. At best, you're now the equivalent of some white guy they hire to get beat up by the heavyweight champion in a tune-up bout.

First, you tried to frame last year's lockout/strike in economic terms, as in, "The owners are trying to starve the players out." Dude, I've seen Derrick Coleman. He couldn't spell "starve" if you spotted him the "star" part. Not because he's stupid, but because he'd have trouble forming a "v" with a mouth full of mashed potatoes.

Then, you tried to make drug testing a negotiating chip. Yeah, we'll let you weed out the crackheads in exchange for a gazillion more dollars in salaries. You severely underestimated the public's hatred of drugged-out athletes on that particular matter.

Finally, you thought the poor, huddled masses would side with the players. It must have come as quite a shock when opinion polls ran as high as 3-1 in favor of the owners. Or, even worse, when the same polls showed the average fan couldn't care less whether there was a season or not.

As it turned out, the shortened, squeezed-together season was cool. There were multiple highlights on TV every night and the playoff races featured some new, fresh faces (Sacramento, which made it, and Toronto, which just missed). The playoffs were also exciting, although viewership in the post-Jordan Brave New World was down.

You and the league got lucky. You weren't hurt as badly as you might have been by the whole ugly mess. But please don't misinterpret things again. You're running out of chances. You're simply going to have to stop saying stupid things. Even the luckiest people eventually get slapped in the face by reality. Heck, look at Alphonse D'Amato. But don't look too closely; he obviously got slapped real hard.

In just two days last week, you jumped back on the stupid track. First, you took a couple shots at the NBA drug-testing policy. You even went so far as to predict that the number of drug users in the league will be less than the 70 percent which some observers have estimated.

Wow, less than 70 percent! That's cause for celebration. Of course, you also took the precaution of warning all of the league's players that drug testing was about to begin. They'd better not get caught one toke over the line or they'll (gasp!) have to undergo drug rehab at full salary. That'll show 'em.

I was wondering. Did you inform some players via normal stationery and others on Zig-Zag paper?

Then there was the very reasonable suggestion from NBA head David Stern that the league set a minimum age limit of 20 for incoming players. You, naturally, came out against it. If David Stern cured cancer, you'd probably question his motives.

Ironically, that very same day, some 18-year-old cranial vacuum named Leon Smith stormed out of the Dallas Mavericks' mini-camp because they told him to run sprints! When asked about it, the moron spoke of himself in third person, explaining, "This is Leon every day. I'm not going to change."

Yeah, we want more of him in the NBA. The only thing stupider than your supporting that kid is if the Mavs go ahead and sign him.

(Listen, if you see Patrick Ewing, tell him a lot of people give him props for trying to play hurt. But then also tell him to quit complaining about his life. If you want to trace the moment where your strike went south, it's when Ewing opened his mouth and complained about not being able to afford the basics of life on $17 million a year. That was it right there. Then, he complains because he got busted doinking some cheerleader.

(Patrick, you're even uglier than I am, and there are only eight people in the world about whom I can make that statement. If you weren't a millionaire ballplayer, you couldn't get a date with a gun. The only women you'd ever know would have the word "inflatable" in their names. But since you're tall, you can get some hootchie cheerleader to have sex with you.)

Billy, it's not too late. You can straighten out. Just get out of that tight circle of yeah-men that surrounds you. (Most people have yes-men, but this is the NBA, after all.) Listen to the common man, the average fan. Just step outside that luxury hotel you're staying at in the Bahamas and...aw, never mind.

Good luck,

Tom

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