Anthony Carter is one of the most momentous characters in Miami Heat history. And all because of a mistake.
Sure, any Knicks fan will tell you that Carter came out of nowhere to beat his team in the third game of the 2000 Eastern Conference semifinals. But Carter was never a star. Far from it: he spent the first four seasons of his 13-year NBA career as a reserve for the heat averaging 4.1 to 6.3 points per game.
And as great as the Knicks shot was, it was something that happened years later and anchored Carter in Heat lore forever.
After the 2002–03 season, Carter, then 27, planned to exercise a $ 4.1 million option to stay in Miami. The option to avail was a breeze. Carter had a disappointing season, averaging 4.1 points in 495 shots in 49 games. For a player with this statistical line, $ 4.1 million was a fortune.
Except that Carter’s agent Bill Duffy didn’t notify the Heat by June 30th that Carter was coming back. Instead of embarking on another season in Miami, Carter accidentally became a free agent.
The mistake cost him at least $ 3 million. Carter had to settle for a minimum contract with the San Antonio Spurs for the next season – roughly $ 750,000 – rather than the $ 4.1 million he would have received by exercising his option.
When the criticism fell on Duffy, the agent offered to get it right. He would pay Carter $ 3 million out of pocket – through an agreed payment schedule – to make up for the mistake, essentially the difference between his Spurs contract and the Heat salary he had forfeited. It was an unusual and practically unprecedented move.
This year was the last of those payments. Carter confirmed in an interview this week that Duffy had kept his promise.
That came as no surprise to Carter, who said he never thought of firing Duffy after the incident.
“I wasn’t even mad to tell the truth,” said Carter, now back with the heat as an assistant coach. “I didn’t think about it until lawyers and other people called. I have not come to any conclusions. I didn’t say, “What happened?” Because I knew what kind of person he was. Things happen.”
It was a bug that had cascading effects.
The most notable ripple was that Pat Riley, the President of the Heat, was given an unexpectedly large amount of space this summer to sign Lamar Odom as a free agent. A year later, in 2004, Odom was at the heart of a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal.
Two years after taking over O’Neal, Miami won its first NBA championship. It was Duffy’s typo that at least partially allowed the championship. That made Carter’s contract situation with the Heat one of the “What If?” in league history.
“I should have had one of those rings too,” joked 45-year-old Carter.
Riley declined to comment on this article.
While Carter’s loyalty to Duffy may seem confusing to some, it was a result of Duffy’s previous trust in Carter.
Carter made it into the NBA in the first place. After his freshman year, he graduated from Alonzo A. Crim High School in Atlanta. For the next three years he traveled around town and played basketball to make a living. At one of those games in 1994, an opponent offered to send a tape of Carter’s game to the coach at Saddleback College, a junior college in California. With some help from friends and family, Carter got his GED and headed west. Two years later he moved to the University of Hawaii, a Department I program.
In 1998, months after he injured his left shoulder prior to his senior year in Hawaii, Carter damaged it more severely on the first day of a pre-NBA draft camp. The injury required surgery and other agents no longer chased him, assuming his NBA hopes were dead. All but Duffy, who stayed with Carter and made sure he signed on the heat after he wasn’t drafted. He spent four years on the team.
Duffy’s mistake could have hurt his future as much as it did Carter’s. But when he promised to repay Carter, his loyalty instead became a selling point for his services.
“When this happened, I heard from a lot of people because I was taking responsibility,” Duffy said. “I took possession of it and took care of it, and it was taken care of.
“I got a call from Wall Street people and said, ‘Man, this happens all the time. Everyone tries to hide from it. You’re trying to give the money. You stood up for it. You took care of it. ‘I actually got a lot of respect from people. “
At this point, it was days before the news of the filing error reached Carter. Duffy, who refused to go into the details of the oversight, first found out about the team. Llew Haden, Carter’s close friend and financial advisor, said he heard about it on July 4th when a reporter called for comment.
“I know my emotions weren’t angry,” said Haden. “At first I was just amazed. “How the hell could this happen?” And then it was, “What do we do next?”
NBA agents are known to be hypercompetitive. However, both Carter and Haden said they did not receive calls from Duffy’s competitors. Instead, Haden suspected, they might have celebrated the apparent professional downfall of a rival.
“I think most of them just danced up and down the halls,” said Haden. “You would be able to get customers who would be tempted to go with them.”
In fact, the only calls Carter and Haden received from the day they got the news were from lawyers representing Carter pro bono to sue Duffy – offers they never seriously considered.
Duffy flew to Atlanta that week to meet with Carter and Haden and come to their financial agreement: a series of payments – a kind of pension that lasted until 2020 – that would make Carter well.
“He was there for me from day one,” said Carter. “I just knew that I would stay with him anyway, and we have a close friendship to this day.”
Duffy’s business also survived the mistake. Today he has a stable list of NBA clients including Luka Doncic, Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic.
After leaving the Heat, Carter stayed in the league for nine more seasons. He developed a hard worker reputation and was a key player in the 2008-2009 Denver Nuggets, which made it to the Western Conference Finals. According to the Basketball Reference, Carter’s NBA revenue is estimated at $ 17 million, less than what many current players now garner in a single season. Duffy’s $ 3 million refund is a significant part of his career gain.
Carter and Duffy were long-lasting relationships. Duffy has advised Carter on his children, including his son Devin, who is a high school basketball player currently hired by the University of South Carolina. Duffy also looks at Carter’s contracts.
Carter says he never brought up the filing bug with Duffy, not even to joke about it. He hasn’t joked with Riley about it since he returned to the organization as a coach in 2016. But he says he is at peace with what things worked out.
“I got my name in the history books two different ways,” Carter said, referring to his summer beater and the contract that wasn’t. “I wouldn’t change anything.”