A mistake by the NBA agent Bill Duffy cost his client Anthony Carter $3 million in 2003, and set in motion personnel moves that, three years later, helped the Miami Heat win its first championship. This year, Duffy paid Carter back, as promised. https://t.co/xlq4TsLWNk
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 14, 2020
This is an amazing story of loyalty, friendship, and heart-stopping stupidity. Anthony Carter was a bench player in the NBA who, following a lackluster 2003 season for the Heat, was ready to exercise his $4.1 million player option for player option to stay in Miami. Except his agent missed the deadline to let the team know he planned to do that. This sent Carter into free agency, where he signed with the Spurs for the league minimum $750,000.
Some agent math: $4,100,000 – $750,000 = you’re fired.
Carter decided not to fire his agent, Bill Duffy, because Duffy had been invested in his career since high school—the only guy who was willing to take a shot on him.
“I wasn’t even mad, to tell you the truth,” said Carter, who is now back with the Heat as an assistant coach. “I didn’t think anything of it until lawyers and stuff called. I didn’t jump to any conclusions. I didn’t say, ‘What happened?’ Because I knew what type of person he was. Things happen.”
Uh, what? I’m sorry but if you’re not mad when your agent loses you $3 million at the beginning of your career, you’re just not paying attention. You should be mad. I can maybe understand screaming at him for a while, punching him in the face a few times, and then hearing him out as he promises to make you whole via some Bobby Bonilla payout structure. Maybe you don’t fire him because you force him to sign some blood contract to honor those payouts for 17 years or you’ll get to seize his house, car, wife, children… whatever. Even then, you’re a more forgiving man than me.
But if you’re not mad about that at all? If your reaction is “things happen”? If you didn’t even ask “what happened” ONCE?
I don’t really know what else to say. That just seems recklessly indifferent. That’s as bad an attitude toward your personal finances as some guy who blows his entire rookie contract on houses and cars. You CAN’T let your agent off the hook that easily. Have him explain it! Create a system to help prevent this from happening in the future. Where the hell was he on June 30th? Why didn’t he file the paperwork?!! WE NEED ANSWERS.
Turns out, it kinda worked out for everyone:
The most noteworthy ripple was that it gave Pat Riley, the Heat’s president, an unexpected amount of cap space that summer, which he used to sign Lamar Odom as a free agent. One year later, in 2004, Odom was the centerpiece of a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.
Two years after acquiring O’Neal, Miami won its first N.B.A. championship. It was Duffy’s clerical error that, at least in part, allowed the championship to happen.
You could easily make the argument that the Heat won a championship as a result of this oversight. As for Duffy, he stuck to the annuity payments and apparently that loyalty became a selling point for his services as an agent—like some charming, boneheaded Jerry McGuire saying I may be the stupidest agent in the game, but I really do care.
Duffy went on to expand his client roster and today, he’s got some absolute studs:
Duffy’s business survived the mistake, too. Today, he has a stable roster of N.B.A. clients, including Luka Doncic, Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic.
“He was there for me from Day 1,” Carter said. “I just knew I was going to stick with him regardless, and to this day, we have a close friendship.”
Charming indeed. What a heartwarming story. Personally, I’m still shaking my head at this guy Duffy. I’ll take a scumbag, lying, cold-hearted weasel agent who dumps my ass the second I stop being profitable but who DOES HIS PAPERWORK ON TIME IN THE PRIME OF MY CAREER over the folksy, house-calling buddy agent who reads my daughter bedtime stories, donates bone marrow to my nephew, and… oh yeah, costs me $3 million because he’s snorkeling instead of faxing.
Here are a couple highlights from Carter’s career, following the fiasco: