Sports

NBA star Chris Paul: 'We're all playing the sit-and-wait game' for the season to resume

Key Points
  • NBA star Chris Paul said the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic is making it difficult to project when the league can resume.
  • In an exclusive interview with CNBC, Paul also discussed PlayersTV, a new channel featuring content from athletes through the sports industry.
Chris Paul #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 28, 2020 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Gary Dineen | NBAE via Getty Images

If there is one individual who is qualified to give an update on the National Basketball Association's plan to resume play, it's Chris Paul.

The Oklahoma City Thunder guard said there is no timetable on when the NBA will return after the coronavirus pandemic suspended games last month. In an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Paul, who also serves as president of the National Basketball Players Association, was asked if he feels the NBA season will be canceled.

"To tell the truth, I don't know," he said, before adding it's difficult to plan a date to resume with so much uncertainty about safety. "We're all playing the sit-and-wait game, and most of all, trying to get this virus contained. That's the top priority."

Before the NBA decides on the remainder of its 2019-2020 season, it has to address compensation issues between players and team owners. The NBPA held a call with player agents on Tuesday, informing reps that owners could seek refunds on contracts if the season is canceled, according to people familiar with the call.

If the NBA cancels the season, players, especially those who received pay advances, could refund millions of dollars to league owners. Paul said players are "aware" of discussions regarding compensation, but said he doesn't sense any panic.

"As long as we have the conversations about it and try to make sure that guys are prepared as possible, I think we'll be fine," Paul said, adding that he's in constant communication with players who call to seek additional information.

"I'm happy guys want to know what's going on, and guys want to be informed," he said. "I can't say it enough: I think we've got the best body of players in our league."

The NBA became the first U.S. pro sports league to suspend its season on March 11, after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The decision triggered other leagues including the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball to suspend operations in the following days.

Paul, who was in the arena when the Thunder-Jazz contest was postponed just seconds before tipoff, described the night as "different," adding he's never experienced a game like it in his 15 years in the NBA.

"I give a big credit to our league," he said. "Some people might have just said, 'Let's figure that out after the game.' We realized it wasn't a basketball crisis or problem, it was about everybody's safety, not just us as players."

While Paul and his colleagues are waiting to get back to work, they are busy engaging fans on social media outlets such as Instagram Live and PlayersTV, a new channel that launched on Samsung TV Plus last month.

Paul and other NBA stars, including Portland Trail Blazers stars Carmelo Anthony and C.J. McCollum, are investors and content creators in PlayersTV, which is a subsidiary of agency Players Media Group.

According to Deron Guidrey, the co-founder and vice-president of PMG, the creation of PlayersTV allows athletes to gain distribution for personalized content. The channel wants to give fans more access to players while giving athletes the ability to monetize content.

"Most athletes don't have the ability or the luxury to be able to go sell shows to CNBC or ESPN or Fox Sports," Guidrey told CNBC in an interview. "We want to be able to have a place where they don't have to be subject to a corporation green light."

Guidrey said PMG and athletes with content on PlayersTV split advertising revenue 50-50. He said the channel is aiming to reach 100 million households globally. Currently, the company's valuation is roughly $20 million.

PlayersTV features shows from star players ranging from Brooklyn Nets center DeAndre Jordan to former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is the co-host of "Most Valuable Partner." The show emulates ABC's "Shark Tank," which is also syndicated on CNBC and features Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Athletes entering the content creation space has continued to increase over the years. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James founded production company SpringHill Entertainment, and Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry assisted in the production of a new documentary, "Jump Shot: The Kenny Sailors Story," which is set for a digital release this month.

Paul, who has made over $250 million in his NBA career, said the PlayersTV platform allows athletes who are accustomed to "playing against each other" the chance to unify and build valuable content.

"I think a lot of players are starting to realize that a lot of us have more in common than not," he said. "And so, if we put our minds together or put our tools together, we can be a lot stronger together."

Though he couldn't foresee a pandemic on the rise when players announced the channel, Paul said the timing aligned perfectly. "People are home, and they want to know what athletes are up to," he said. "They get the opportunity to get introduced to PlayersTV."

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