Billy Hunter Rumors
“Just that I always acted in the best interests of the players,” Hunter told CBS Sports in his first interview since he was removed from his post under a cloud of suspicion. “I always put their interests first.” Hunter seems smaller, and his voice is softer now, though somehow he’s no less bombastic. He’s always been a fighter; an underdog in the perpetual tug-of-war with billionaire owners and the NBA’s army of lawyers. As the league prepares for a monumental and chaotic free-agency period that begins Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET, Hunter feels at once vindicated and victimized.
When the league’s nine-year, $24 billion TV deal begins hitting the system with the dawn of the new league year on Friday, a period of unprecedented spending will commence. By next summer, LeBron James will shatter Michael Jordan’s league record annual salary of $33.1 million in what will be the first $200 million player contract in NBA history. “That’s why the owners are crying,” Hunter said. “… Ironically, some agents have called me now who wanted my head before and they thanked me for the deal. They said it’s been very lucrative for the players.”
“The one thing that I do remember saying to the players was that we had to be conscious of the fact that the revenues were going to jump significantly because of the TV money,” Hunter said. “And I’d said that I knew that it would at least double; I didn’t expect it to triple, but I knew that it would at least double. … It’s not credible for the NBA to make that claim.” The league office had no comment on Hunter’s assertion. But while the league office also thought at the time it was plausible for broadcast rights fees to double, neither side expected them to triple — an outcome that is about to flood the system with about $1 billion in salary cap room. Hunter’s successor, Roberts, rejected the league’s proposal to smooth the additional money into the player compensation pool.
“David and I had a peculiar relationship,” Hunter said. “I don’t know that we were always distrusting of one another. I respect David for the job he did. I think he did a great job and the league is the beneficiary. I don’t think I ever got any credit, even from the media. You guys were the ones who made all the characterizations and I was always scratching for whatever I could get. “I don’t dislike him,” Hunter said. “The difference was, I had a job to do and he had a job to do. And I did it. I didn’t let anything interfere with that.”
It will continue to be OK for different agents within the same agency to represent players, coaches and management, so long as they are separated by a so-called “Chinese wall,” which is customary in the legal profession. But some in the agent community believe that doesn’t go far enough. “I asked the union when it was going through the Billy Hunter case, ‘Why don’t you hire the same lawfirm that Billy Hunter is using to defend himself and put up a Chinese wall?” longtime player agent David Falk told CBS Sports. “That’s exactly how absurd it is.”
The National Basketball Players Association has filed a blistering countersuit against former executive director Billy Hunter, seeking “millions of dollars” for what it calls “willful and deliberate misconduct and breach of his fiduciary duties.” The claims were filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in addition to the union’s response to Hunter’s revised complaint in which he is seeking at least $10.5 million in damages for alleged breach of contract.