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Updates on Billy Hunter Accusing Kobe Bryant of Negotiating Secret Labor Deal

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Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2013

Billy Hunter has gone on the offensive against what he feels are improprieties by Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher during negotiations to end the 2011 NBA lockout.

According to CBS Sports' Ken Berger, the former executive director of the NBA Players Association alleges that Bryant went behind his back to make a deal with the owners and then left him holding the bag at the end of the day:

Billy Hunter, the ousted former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, has identified Kobe Bryant and his agent, Rob Pelinka, as the power brokers who pushed him to accept a 50-50 labor deal that Hunter claims was negotiated behind his back during the 2011 lockout.

In a 21-page court filing this week in Hunter's lawsuit against the NBPA, its former president, Derek Fisher, and his business manager, Jamie Wior, Hunter laid out the case for how he believes he was sandbagged by Fisher during the labor talks. Hunter is alleging defamation and breach of contract in the lawsuit, and Fisher's alleged role in a so-called secret deal with the owners to end the lockout would be relevant if Fisher usurped Hunter's authority as the sole bargaining agent for the players under the NBPA's by-laws.

By the end of October 2011, negotiations between the players and owners had continued hitting a snag. Berger reports that Hunter had been holding strong at the players getting 52 percent of revenue, while the owners wanted a 50-50 split.   

Then on Oct. 28, things got interesting. The night before the meeting at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, Hunter received a phone call from a caller identifying himself as the "Black Mamba," whom he knew was Bryant. Bryant, who said Pelinka was also on the phone, "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 then makes a leap in his declaration to the court, characterizing Bryant's phone call as evidence that Fisher had cut a 50-50 deal with the owners without Hunter's knowledge or authority.

"What Bryant and Pelinka were telling me is that a 50-50 deal had already been completed behind my back," Hunter wrote.

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com at least found the humor in Bryant identifying himself as the "Black Mamba" on the phone.

Seriously, I would just laugh for like five minutes if someone said "This is the Black Mamba." "Sorry, sorry, my bad...HAHAHAHHAHAHHHA"

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) November 21, 2013

Bleacher Report's Howard Beck noted that three players were coming to the defense of Hunter.

Court filing includes statements of support for Hunter from 3 fmr members of NBPA exec committeee: Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, and Mo Evans

— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) November 21, 2013

This court filing from Hunter, who was voted out as head of the players union this past February, will likely shed light on everything that was allegedly going on behind closed doors.

No matter the outcome, nobody will come out smelling like roses. Fisher and Bryant look bad for going behind Hunter's back, and Hunter looks bad for letting things get to that point in the first place.

The Associated Press' Brian Mahoney, meanwhile, doesn't care what had to happen, so long as a deal got done.

NBA lockout was never ending until players agreed to 50-50 BRI split. If Kobe's the one who had to tell Hunter that, so be it.

— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) November 21, 2013

NBA.com has a timeline of the entire lockout process dating back to the six-year collective bargaining agreement signed back in 2005.

Berger noted in his piece that Oct. 28 seemed like the day that everything was going to get done, but as he wrote, "Someone or something was preventing Hunter and/or commissioner David Stern from budging from their established bargaining positions."

It will be interesting to see how the "Black Mamba" slithers out of this one.

Bryant is currently working his way back from his Achilles injury and making gradual progress toward a full return. The Lakers are under .500 thus far in his absence and will certainly need their superstar healthy to have any chance at contending this season.

Whether or not this latest news has any impact on Bryant or serves as a distraction of any kind is unknown, but it will likely take some time for everything to unfold. 

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