In Los Angeles superior court, the Sacramento Kings, by the former agent for NBA forward Corliss Williamson, Elbert Crawford. The suit, which seeks $10 million, claims the Kings reneged on an under-the-table $50-$55 million contract to Williamson. The alleged agreement occurred at the end of the NBA lockout in January 1999, when Sacramento wanted to sign free-agent center Vlade Divac but knew his contract (six years, $62.5 million) would leave little salary-cap room to re-sign Williamson, a 25-year-old coming off a breakthrough season. According to Crawford's suit, the Kings persuaded Williamson to accept a $500,000 contract for the shortened 1999 season on the oral promise that he would get a seven-year deal worth $50-$55 million starting in 1999-2000. "The Kings told me this kind of thing went on all the time," Crawford told SI. Team officials deny promising a contract.
Crawford told SI that the Kings withdrew the offer after the season because they realized Peja Stojakovic was a better fit at small forward. Allegedly upset that the Kings wouldn't agree to the long-term deal, Williamson fired Crawford in September 1999 and used another agent to negotiate a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Crawford says the firing sent him on the road to bankruptcy. Crawford's version of the events was credible enough that the NBA paid him $75,000 for his evidence and testimony during an investigation it conducted last year, but an official says the league couldn't prove wrongdoing.
Williamson, now with Detroit, won the Sixth Man Award last season and is in the second season of a six-year, $33 million deal.
He is not a plaintiff in the suit and declined to comment, but his father, Jerry, has supplied an affidavit saying the Kings promised they would give his son a $50-$55 million contract. If Crawford wins, the NBA will be under pressure to discipline the Kings. In 2000 the league fined the Timberwolves $3.5 million and docked them five first-round draft picks (one was later reinstated) after determining that Minnesota had signed forward Joe Smith to a secret seven-year, $86 million deal to evade the cap. Says an NBA team executive, "Under-the-table deals are our version of NCAA recruiting violations."