Podcasts, The Step Back

Sam Smith on 1960s and 1970s NBA labor battles


We talk to “The Jordan Rules” author Sam Smith about his new book, “Hard Labor: The Battle that Birthed the Billion-Dollar NBA,” which documents the labor battles between the NBA and its players in the 1960s and 1970s, and shares stories about the key players in that fight, including Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Rick Barry, Bill Bradley, John Havlicek, Chet Walker, Archie Clark, Joe Caldwell, and Wes Unseld.

We discuss Bob Cousy and Tommy Heinsohn’s efforts to strengthen the union in the 1950s and early 1960s, how black players dealt with virulent racism of the time, the threatened 1964 All-Star Game boycott by players that galvanized the union, and the NBA players blocking the planned NBA-ABA merger in 1970.

Listen: Interview with Bernard King on Knicks memories, perseverance and more

We also talk about Spencer Haywood joining the pros early and fighting against the NCAA and NBA, the players getting a sympathetic ear in Congress during merger hearings, Barry pitting himself against the NBA players and testifying in favor the merger (to get back into the NBA), the NBA players recently agreeing to fund medical benefits for retired players, and much more.

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