Murray says he took the money with no intention of trying to persuade Camby to sign with Spears. "Spears knew I was from the projects and that I didn't have a lot of money," he says. "He thought I'd sell Marcus out, but I wouldn't do that to a friend. I just figured if Spears is going to try to use me, I'm gonna play stupid and just take the money. I didn't see any way it would get Marcus in trouble. If I knew it would lead to all this, to people thinking Marcus was some kind of bad guy, I never would have done it. People have the wrong idea of Marcus. The stuff with Spears, almost all of that was me, not Marcus."
Camby did deal extensively with Lounsbury, whose courtship of him is an example of what happens when a minnow tries to swim with the sharks. Lounsbury was a newcomer to the agent business, having decided to try his hand at it after being laid off from his job as an executive at an oil company in 1994, and he went all out to get Camby, taking out, he says, more than $60,000 in cash advances against credit cards and borrowing more than $60,000 from friends and family. He even went so far as to try to enlist Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates as an investor, sending a letter to Gates along with a UMass cap and T-shirt autographed TO BILL by Camby. Lounsbury says Gates didn't respond. Lounsbury got an early lesson in the big-time agenting business when he approached a prominent Big East player to talk about representing him and the player responded with an open palm and one question: "What's in it for me?" "I knew right then how the game was played," Lounsbury says. Eventually Lounsbury built a client base of former U.S. college players who played overseas. He saw Camby as his first major client, the one who would lead to other big-name players. Lounsbury, who still carries all of his important Camby-related paperwork—including answering-machine tapes, rental-car receipts, phone bills and an unsigned representation contract—in a burgundy leather briefcase, says Camby took advantage of his desperation to sign him.
"I knew all along that what I was doing was wrong," Lounsbury says. "In fact, Marcus and I had that discussion several times. He knew I couldn't afford what I was doing. He's been to my home, my son's Little League games. He's met my friends. He knew how far out I was going for him. But he always told me it wasn't a risk, that I was his man."
It didn't take long for Lounsbury to become intoxicated with his friendship with one of the best college players in the nation. He felt special when Camby would spot him in the crowd at a UMass game and acknowledge him. "He would smile and give me a little thumbs-up," Lounsbury says. "That was like our little signal. He'd do that, and, as stupid as it sounds, I'd feel great the whole night. I was in. God, I listen to myself and it sounds like a 12-year-old boy and his first girlfriend."
Lounsbury thought he was buying Camby's loyalty and says Camby reassured him whenever he had doubts. "On three occasions, I heard about other agents' giving him things," he says. "I even met Spears after one game when both of us were waiting for Marcus. Marcus told me not to worry, that [Spears] was just some guy his boys were taking for a ride. He would say, 'You can take it to the bank.' I'd ask him what he meant by that, and he said. 'We're going to get rich together when I come out.' That was enough for me."
In addition to lavishing money and gifts on Camby, Lounsbury tried to ingratiate himself with the player's mother. Meanwhile, he says, Spears sought to use Camby's friends to get an inside track. "He went for the 'boys in the hood' approach," Lounsbury says. "Another agent I heard of tied himself to Jackie Bethea, Marcus's 'second mom.' [Bethea coached Camby on youth league teams and has a child with Camby's father, Ames Manderville.] Another guy went for the [then Minutemen] coach [John Calipari]. Another guy worked on the people handling the agent-screening process at UMass. We were all looking for an angle."
Camby's story might have been different if somebody he respected had been able to persuade him to distance himself from the unscrupulous characters. Todd Glasco, who coached Camby on a traveling church league team from Camby's early teens until his senior year in high school, says he tried to be that person. "I told his mom, after his freshman year [at UMass], 'In the next 12 months you're going to have all kinds of friends you never knew before. He's going to be a millionaire, and everybody in the world is going to want to talk to him.' I warned Marcus not to take anything from them. He gave me a blank look. He was listening to me, but it was obvious he wasn't hearing me."
Camby, however, says Glasco never said anything of the sort. "Todd Glasco never warned me about anything," he says. "He was someone I played for as a teenager, but it wasn't like we were close or anything." In fact Camby says that Glasco never took any special interest in him until after he blossomed as a player in his freshman year at UMass. "In all the time Marcus played for him he never took the time to meet me," says Janice Camby. "Then when Marcus started playing in college, [Glasco] called me up to introduce himself. From then on he drove me to almost every one of Marcus's games."
Camby, Murray and Johnson all believe that far from distancing Camby from agents, Glasco may well have been helping Spears try to recruit Camby as a client, a charge Glasco calls "ridiculous." They point to the fact that Glasco was at Spears's house on the night in May 1996 when Spears made his threats to Camby. "These were two guys who had no reason to know each other," Murray says of Glasco and Spears. "When Marcus and I got to Spears's house that night, there was Todd sitting there. I don't think he wanted us to see him there, because he parked his car way down the street, and as soon as we walked in the door he looked surprised and went straight upstairs."
Glasco says he had become acquainted with Spears at that year's NCAA tournament. Spears had invited him over, he says, to show him that Camby was still accepting gifts from him—in this case, stereo equipment. Glasco says he went over because he wanted to protect Camby; he says he was afraid of what might happen when Spears finally realized that Camby had no intention of making him his agent. "There was a feeling of real anger in the air," Glasco says. "I went upstairs and called my wife and described what was going on. She said, 'Drop the phone and walk out now.' I said, 'I want to, but I can't. I'm afraid if something happens to Marcus, I won't be able to forgive myself.' If someone pulled out a gun and he gets shot.... I didn't know what was going to happen, but that's the way the atmosphere was."