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Did Michael Curry save the NBA?

Well, that might be a little melodramatic. But before he picked up his first clipboard as coach, before he spent time as an executive in the D-League front office, before he served two-terms as president of the NBA Players Association, Michael Curry played a huge role in ending the 1999 lockout and saving the season. Chris McCosky tells the story in today's Detroit News:

Curry, at that time, was an NBA journeyman on his fourth team and in the middle of his first guaranteed contract. He wasn't exactly a household name, nor was he an officer of the union. He simply was one of 20 players on the union's negotiating committee.

Yet, it was Curry who went into a large meeting room in a Manhattan hotel Jan. 5, 1999, armed with the support of a majority of mid- to low-income level players he had brought together, and convinced the small minority of some 40 high-salaried players who ran the union to empower [executive director of the players union Billy] Hunter to negotiate alone with commissioner David Stern.

Had that battle not been won and Hunter not allowed to negotiate with Stern in an all-night session ending just hours before the deadline to cancel the season, by all accounts no deal would have been struck, the season would have been lost and an industry that was enjoying immense popularity would have been in peril.

"Michael Curry may have been a journeyman in there against those star players, but this wasn't a basketball arena," Hunter said. "It was a business arena, and in that arena, the roles were flip-flopped. When we got inside that room, the cream just rose to the top.

[...] "The greatest skill that's needed to be a successful head coach is leadership, and during the lockout Michael Curry was one of the greatest leaders I had ever been around," said Tim McCormick, a former Michigan standout who works for the players association. "He's tough, strong, smart and not afraid to stand up for what he knows is right."