Billy Hunter today is an interesting story. He is the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, the man across the table (or will be next week) staring down David Stern in a dispute over how to split up the fans’ money that could set the entire NBA back a decade or more. No pressure guys.
But Billy Hunter’s story before he got to this moment is fascinating.
Over at Grantland, Jonathan Abrams weaves a masterful bit of storytelling about Hunter’s life, and what led him to this moment. We’ll give you some highlights, but you really should click the link and read the entire thing for yourself.
As a youth, Hunter played baseball and in 1955 was on one of the first integrated teams to play in the Little League World Series. As a team, they had to vote if they would play because of death threats against the squad.
In high school, Hunter starred in four sports, but ultimately chose to play football at Syracuse. As a running back, Hunter followed Ernie Davis, the 1961 Heisman Trophy winner, and preceded Floyd Little, a future Hall of Famer. But Hunter was also making moves that would chart his path. With the memories of his Little League days as an impetus, Hunter led a petition signed by every black athlete at Syracuse stating that they would boycott playing colleges in the South that engaged in segregated seating in stadiums or arenas.
Hunter had a brief NFL career but eventually went on to law school at Howard University then got a Masters of Laws degree at UC Berkley out in California. Out there he became a prosecutor and eventually the chief assistant in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, then President Jimmy Carter made him he U.S. Attorney for Northern California.
He brought the first major federal cases against the Hells Angels and Black Panther Party. Hunter also prosecuted the surviving members who aided Jim Jones’ cult after the mass suicide of more than 900 people in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978…. Hunter also recommended Patty Hearst’s sentence be commuted and visited Hearst while she was imprisoned.
Hunter eventually opened his own firm and eventually that led him to the chair he occupies now. Hunter has been with the NBPA for 15 years and he says he had a feeling this lockout was coming since 2007. In the end it may be the defining period of his time as head of the NBA’s players union.
But it will not be the defining time of his life.