Billy Hunter claims Kobe Bryant, agent led push for 'secret' NBPA deal

Patrick McDermott

In a lawsuit, Billy Hunter is firing back at those involved in the NBPA's 2011 lockout settlement talks.

Former National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter sued the NBPA and its former president, Derek Fisher, for breach of contract this week. In the court filing, Hunter claimed that Kobe Bryant and his agent, Rob Pelinka, directly urged him to accept a "secret" deal negotiated behind his back during the 2011 NBA lockout. Hunter alleged that Fisher went above Hunter's head to negotiate a 50-50 deal with the owners to end the labor stoppage, via CBS' Ken Berger:

"Late in the evening before the Waldorf Astoria meeting, I was already in bed for the night when my phone rang," Hunter wrote in the court filing. "The caller identified himself as the ‘Black Mamba.' I knew it was Kobe Bryant, a superstar player for the Los Angeles Lakers and the highest paid player in the NBA."

Bryant informed Hunter that his agent, Pelinka also was on the phone.

At that point, Hunter said that Bryant urged him to accept a 50-50 split of revenue in the meeting the following day and "put this thing to bed. ... Do the deal."

Hunter said Bryant also told him, "I got your back."

First, yes, apparently Bryant actually referred to himself as "the Black Mamba" on the phone. Second, Berger goes on to say that Hunter took Bryant's words to mean that a deal was completed without his involvement, not simply that Bryant would support Hunter if he chose to accept a deal. Hunter then goes on to say he confronted Fisher, who passed the buck to Bryant, via CBS:

Hunter said he confronted Fisher, who denied engaging in secret negotiations with league negotiators and asserted, instead, that Bryant and Pelinka had done so. That's interesting, but Hunter is not suing Bryant or Pelinka for breach of contract; he's suing Fisher. So where this goes from here will hinge on matters of contract law that are beyond the scope of my knowledge.

Hunter was owed $10.5 million in salary when he was fired in February, and in the lawsuit, he is seeking that and more. It's worth noting that Hunter's actions while in charge of the NBPA have been investigated by the United States attorney's office, the Department of Labor and the New York attorney general.

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