Murray, a childhood friend of Camby's who still lives in Hartford, says he also benefited from Lounsbury's unprompted generosity. Near the end of one UMass home game during Camby's junior year, according to Murray, he and Lounsbury went to a public rest room in the Mullins Center. Murray says Lounsbury checked under the stalls to make sure no one else was there, then handed him $600. "He said $300 was for me and $300 for Marcus," Murray says. "Then he walked out one end of the rest room, and I walked out another. That was the first time he gave me money. I didn't even know him that well. I thought, Damn, I gotta come to games more often."
Yet Lounsbury's involvement with Camby seems almost innocent compared with Spears's association with him. After he signed with ProServ, Camby says, Spears threatened to expose their improper contact to the tabloids unless Camby paid to keep him quiet. Camby's response was to go to the police. Spears has since been charged not only with extortion but also with promoting prostitution. His trial, at which Camby almost surely would be called to testify, was scheduled to begin on this coming Monday, although sources told SI that a plea bargain was possible. Spears, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, declined to speak with SI.
It was Camby's statement to police in his complaint against Spears that brought Camby's own transgressions to light. He told of his first meeting with Spears, in December 1995 at his UMass dormitory when he was a junior. Camby said that he, a friend and another UMass basketball player had sex with a woman whom Spears had brought along. The woman, who at the time was a tenant in a condominium owned by Spears, told authorities that her rent was cut by $250 for her night's work.
After that, Camby said in his statement, Spears began showing up at Minutemen games with some of Camby's friends, whom Spears provided with money and free use of rental cars. Camby also said his friends gave him an expensive gold chain and diamond pendant around Christmas 1995 that he later learned had been purchased by Spears. Camby said he accepted $1,000 from Spears in May 1996 and, at about the same time, had sex at Spears's home with a woman procured for him by Spears. Camby told police that Spears took photographs of him with the woman. According to Camby, it was about two weeks later, after he signed with ProServ, that Spears made his threat. Camby quoted Spears as telling him, 'I was doing all this stuff for you and your guys, and you better sign with me. I want four percent of your contract and 25 percent of your endorsements now, or I am going to Hard Copy and the [National] Enquirer. If I can't have you, no one else can.' "
If convicted of the charges against him, Spears could face jail time and disbarment. Lounsbury says he was forced into bankruptcy by debts he ran up while plying Camby with gifts. The reputation of the UMass basketball program was severely tarnished, making it highly unlikely that the Minutemen will attract the kind of recruits who will get them back anytime soon to the Final Four, which they reached in 1996 with Camby as their star. The school was forced to return the $151,000 it earned in NCAA tournament revenue that year and forfeit all four of its tournament victories because Camby's involvement with agents made him retroactively ineligible.
To his credit Camby has repaid that money to the school. "I felt I owed them that much," he says. He has paid for his misdeeds in other ways as well. The revelations about his offenses at UMass came to light last season, during the first half of his rookie year with Toronto, and they, even more than the back and ankle injuries he struggled with, affected his performance. "It was the most difficult time I've ever gone through," he says. "The worst part was that it was all uncovered a little bit at a time, so I always knew that there was going to be another story when the media discovered something else or the school discovered something else. It was like knowing another weight was going to fall on you, but you didn't know when. Then finally everything was out in the open, and I didn't have to worry anymore. That's when I started to play up to my abilities."
When he did, the Raptors liked what they saw. Camby finished with averages of 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game and was 10th in the league in blocked shots with 2.06 per game. Despite missing 19 games with injuries, he made the NBA's All-Rookie first team. "He's a 6'11" player with the skill set of a guard," says Toronto coach Darrell Walker. "I've never seen a man his size with the skills he has. We played him at every position last year except point guard. We'd throw him in at shooting guard and ask him to defend [the Portland Trail Blazers'] Isaiah Rider or [the Philadelphia 76ers'] Jerry Stackhouse, which should tell you something about how wide a variety of talents he has."
Camby's talent has never been questioned, but in light of the revelations, his character has. "I get reminded of [the scandal] from time to time," he says. "Sometimes I'll walk down the street at home in Hartford and someone will yell out something, call me a name or something. People have a right to hold what I did against me. But I think all it will take is for me to make the All-Star team a few times in a row to make people forget about the mistakes I made in the past."
That may be wishful thinking. "Spears basically said he was going to ruin the kid, and he's come pretty close, because every couple of months Marcus has to deal with all of this again," Johnson, Camby's agent, says. "People Marcus thought he could trust have let him down. Some friendships have been damaged that can never be repaired. Yes, he can still play basketball, and he can still earn a lot of money. But if you think he hasn't lost anything in all of this, you're crazy."
Murray accepts much of the blame for that. Although Camby's and Spears's names have been linked repeatedly in the headlines, Camby met face-to-face with Spears a handful of times. More often it was Murray who dealt with Spears, accepting money and gifts, some of which eventually reached Camby but most of which Murray kept. "Marcus didn't know about most of it," Murray says. "I was the one who got most of the stuff from Spears. I would go to his house, and he'd go upstairs, then he'd come down with money for me, $300 or $400 at a time. He didn't really ask me about hooking him up with Marcus, but we both knew what was going on."