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Billy Hunter’s star-crossed past

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Jonathan Abrams, working for Grantland, has written a fantastic piece on NBA Players Association head Billy Hunter. It's not exactly a take-out, but it probably won't leave you too keen on the NBAPA's prospects after you work through it.

For one, it mentions Hunter's time as the U.S. Attorney, as appointed by President Jimmy Carter, for Northern California. At that particular gig, he apparently brought suits against the Hell's Angels and what was left of the Black Panther Party -- a group that was systematically disabled by both crooked politicians and police officers alike.

And if you can stomach the star-worship, Hunter also apparently decided that he needed to visit Patty Hearst in jail even after his bosses decided (as knowledge of Stockholm Syndrome came to light) that all was in place for her to be let go:

Hunter also recommended Patty Hearst's sentence be commuted and visited Hearst while she was imprisoned. At first, Hunter perceived that his bosses simply wanted him to sign off on the decision. Hunter insisted on meeting an imprisoned Hearst, the granddaughter of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who was first kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and later sympathized with the militant group.

They talked about life, and Hunter noted the irony of how he, a poor kid from New Jersey, was holding the key to the freedom of one of the country's most wealthy heiresses. At the end of the three-hour conversation, Hearst plainly asked Hunter of his intentions. "I told her that I would recommend getting her out of here."

Touching, sure. Save for the excluded part where Jimmy Carter acted as the main force in both commuting Hearst's sentence down to single-digit years in jail, and then her eventual release.


The piece goes on:

In 1984, Hunter started his own firm, specializing in municipal finance and entertainment law. He represented MC Hammer at the height of the singer's fame and later brought a case against the entertainer Bobby Brown. At the end of the trial, Hunter's daughters wanted him to get Brown's autograph for them. "He told me where to go," Hunter said with a chuckle.

Ha! Again, a wonderful story.

Save for the part when Hunter, working as the head of the firm that presided over Hammer's breakthrough 1990 album "Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em," allowed the disc to be released not only with several uncleared samples (most notoriously the bass lick from Rick James' "Super Freak," utilized in Hammer's "U Can't Touch This"), a clear case of plagiarism (Hammer's "Here Comes the Hammer" was lifted from a Christian rap group from Texas which later settled out of court with the artist for an undisclosed amount), and an entire unprofitable album full of suit-worthy samples released a full year (though the cases wouldn't conclude until a year following its release) after (badly missed) sampling game became notoriously unprofitable.

This isn't to say Hunter is unfit as a leader of this particular union, or that his time spent working his tail off to get to this stage has been misspent. To anyone who has consistently read BDL for the last few months, our thoughts on the lockout and our levels of respect for Hunter have been pretty consistent. Still, let's hold off on fawning over the famous names behind his story before we drool away.

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