David Falk, famed agent of Michael Jordan and many other NBA stars, accused an unnamed agent of paying a top unnamed college player $500,000. Falk's rumors, which may be absolutely true, led to tremendous speculation about which player and powerbroker he was talking about.
After reading my original post on the subject, a former D1 basketball coach e-mailed what I think is an excellent parallel, "In coaching, assistant coaches often say 'They bought him!' when they lose a recruit to another institution. I always told assistant coaches who said that to me, 'Bring me proof and I will blind copy you with the letter I will send to the NCAA, the Director of Athletics, the Head Coach and the violating Assistant Coach.' I feel the same way about agents making these claims. While the claims may be true, it is simply too easy to drop these bombs and do so without accountability."
Being a whistleblower comes at great risk, so I understand someone's reluctance to come forward in these situations, particularly if they don't have ironclad evidence. And even if true, there's a long history of people who have tried to tell the truth, only to have their reputations and careers destroyed. Hopefully having the subject matter out there will be good for the game. We're all talking and reading about it, right?
True Hoop's Henry Abbott has done a phenomenal job covering this story. He also has written extensively about Worldwide Wes, a fascinating basketball figure. Naturally, many connected the dots, including Falk's close friendship with Wes, and concluded that Wes was basketball's equivalent of "Deep Throat."
In an interview with Abbott, Falk clarified his original comments. Definitely read the entire interview, but a few comments desconstructed below.
Falk: I'm not a guy to comment on the identity of a certain player. It was intended as a state-of-the-union comment about this industry.
Ok, we know most believe the agent business is dirty. How do we fix it? If athletes and agents are cheating, wouldn't the larger interests be well-served by exposing this?
Falk: It's not competition based on merit. It's competition based on improper inducements. I think it's an abomination as it is. There are a number of ways to fix it, if people really wanted to. My days as an activist are probably behind me.
Yes, there are a number of ways to fix it. Start by explaining to athletes and their families why it's in their self-interest not to take money from agents, even if the temptations are high. Falk makes a good case: "If you pay people $500,000 to get to represent them at the draft -- the minute you have to pay them is the minute you can no longer advise them as an impartial agent." That message needs to get out. Next, we need to root out agents who are cheating. Of course, that's not so easy. If one of the most powerful basketball agents of all time won't name names, it's doubtful others will step forward.