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Roberts becomes first woman to lead NBPA

AP

Michele Roberts has watched basketball for as long as she can remember. It was an easy choice growing up in a home with one TV and two older brothers.

When she saw an interview last year with an NBA player and noticed how passionately he talked about trying to improve his embattled union, she wanted to be more than a fan. She wanted to be involved.

That got her started toward becoming the first woman to lead a North American pro sports union.

Roberts was elected early Tuesday morning as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and the Washington trial lawyer is eager to provide the leadership it needs after a few difficult years.

“They were looking for, not a man, not a woman, they were looking for a personality,” Roberts said in a phone interview. “I think I’m that personality and I intend to be what I have been in my entire practice, singularly devoted to this union. And that’s what they were looking for.

“Someone, whether it be a boy or a girl, who understood that this was their union, and they intended to run it, and they were looking for someone who appreciated that and was not going to deviate from that.”

Roberts received 32 of 36 votes at a meeting of players in Las Vegas, defeating tech industry CEO Dean Garfield and Dallas Mavericks CEO Terdema Ussery in the final vote.

It capped a long and arduous process to replace Billy Hunter, who was ousted in February 2013. Roberts was one of the finalists initially offered to the rank-and-file during All-Star weekend in February, but the process was re-opened under another search committee at the urging of some players and agents.

More than 100 players reconvened in Las Vegas this week, and after some tense moments leading up to the vote, Roberts emerged as the winner.