Beasley asserts in his suit that Bell Sports Incorporated President Joel Bell bankrolled Curtis Malone’s nationally recognized DC Assault summer basketball program and that in return Malone felt obliged to steer Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft, to Bell for professional representation. Beasley’s suit contends that, along the way, Bell and Malone violated NCAA rules and federal laws governing agent conduct.
Beasley’s accusations are part of a countersuit against Bell and a third-party claim against Malone filed Sept. 27 in Montgomery County Circuit Court in response to a Jan. 21 breach-of-contract suit filed by Bell Sports Inc. against Beasley. Bell’s original suit claims Beasley wrongfully terminated his representation agreement with Bell Sports Inc. just prior to signing an endorsement deal with Adidas.
Bell declined to comment and referred all questions to his attorney, Glenn C. Etelson, who did not respond to numerous requests to comment for this story.
Malone did not return a cellphone message, but his attorney, Bill Heyman, said, “Mr. Malone absolutely denies the allegations of impropriety made against him in the third-party complaint.”
The legal wranglings provide a window into the tangled world of youth basketball, in which talented teenagers become prized commodities and relationships are cultivated through unregulated third parties. Several prominent college basketball coaches, summer-league coaches and representatives of sports agencies have privately said such arrangements between agents and summer-league coaches have become commonplace over the past decade. All spoke on condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships with the other parties.
Beasley’s countersuit is the most public assertion of such an arrangement. In it, Beasley’s mother, Fatima Smith, describes Malone as Bell’s “runner,” which is a term commonly used in basketball circles to describe individuals who act as intermediaries between agents and players.
Beasley’s lawsuit contends that Bell’s relationship with Malone and payments to Beasley’s mother were “intended, ultimately, improperly to induce Beasley into executing a player agent agreement without competition from other agents.”
When asked to provide evidence that supports the allegations, Beasley’s attorney Mark A. Smith said, “I am confident that, should this matter go to trial, I will have sufficient testimonial and documentary proof of the allegations made in the counterclaim. . . .
“As of right now, I cannot produce all the evidence I expect to have.”
Asked to corroborate some of the allegations in the suit, Fatima Smith declined to comment for this story.
Barring a settlement, the court must decide whether Beasley is a 22-year-old trying to avoid paying Bell his commission by firing him after he had virtually completed his work. In the case of Beasley’s countersuit, at issue is whether the player was denied appropriate representation by people seeking to cash in on relationships built during his teenage years.