I'll start by answering the headline: no, they didn't. At least they didn't on their own. And they may not have at all.
Welcome to the lockout "he-said, he-said."
As Stern has recounted a dozen times since, not long after what was supposed to have been the hallway conversation that saved the season, something odd and wholly unexpected happened. There was a knock on the door where Stern was selling his owners on the idea. The players wanted to talk.
When they convened, instead of the union's head, Hunter, or their negotiating committee of Maurice Evans, Bonner, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas and Chris Paul, representing the players were Fisher, Kessler, and three superstars who had been to very few of the meetings at all: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
A bad sign: Pierce was still wearing his backpack.
The players had two pieces of news that shocked the league: 50/50 was not good enough. And there was nothing further to discuss.
Pretty damning statement there. Sure makes it sound like a 50/50 deal was in the works until the three amigos, ironically mortal enemies on the court, got together to squash it.
Here's one explanation of why the players rejected that 50/50 offer. Perhaps they never made it.
The union's vice president's, Spurs forward Matt Bonner says "Kessler definitely didn't offer 50/50. There's no way."
The players are, apparently, holding firm at 53% of the BRI. You have to go to the link to read the last bit of the piece. It's an interesting phenomenon about empowered young black men no longer feeling they need to conform to the whims of old, white rich people. Whether that is true or not, it adds a dimension beyond mere labor negotiation. It adds a societal influence. It turns this in to more than dollars vs. dollars.
And this may be partly why we're here. Because these young men, many of whom started with nothing, feel they have worked too hard and earned too much to turn around and watch these living, breathing symbols of what held their family and their neighborhoods down take it away. The added elements of race and wealth make this more than just splitting numbers.
Yes, I know that some of you are rolling your eyes. You might be asking "why does everything have to boil down to race?"
Well, look at the negotiating teams. Look at both sides. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher are the front men for the union. And while Matt Bonner might check in from time to time with a comment, the players' side is almost entirely black. On the other side, you've got David Stern, Adam Silver, and an almost entirely white, team of billionaires.
These negotiations may not be about race, but we'd be fools not to think the racial overtones don't linger in the back of more than a few minds. And I don't want to make this entire piece about race, but the racial element has been under-discussed and it does play a role.