How a Fatal Agent Error Made Shaq’s Trade to Miami Possible

Shaquille O’Neal was the Miami Heat’s first real superstar. However, his trade from the Lakers to South Beach was only possible because a well-known agent made a fatal mistake with one of his clients.

It was a real coup when the Miami Heat traded for Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 2004. The “Diesel” was the first real superstar to play for the Florida franchise, which had only been part of the NBA since 1988. Together with Dwyane Wade and head coach Pat Riley, the Heat became a contender, and in 2006 they were crowned champions in the finals against the Dallas Mavericks (4-2).

For Shaq, the Heat sent Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a future first-round pick to Los Angeles. Wade was out of the question after his strong rookie season, instead Odom was the “prize” for the Lakers. The forward was only 24 at the time and had had a strong season (17 points, almost 10 rebounds on average) in the Heat jersey.

After four years with the LA Clippers, the Heat had presented the restricted free agent with an offer sheet for six years and $65 million, the stingy Clippers owner Donald Sterling didn’t go. Much to the delight of Odom, who even said publicly that he no longer wanted to play for the Clippers.

Without signing Odom, the Heat probably wouldn’t have been able to pull off the Shaq trade a year later, and it was a coincidence that Miami had the money to sign Odom at all. Or rather, an agent had made a serious mistake.

Anthony Carter: Thanks to #HeatCulture in the NBA

Bill Duffy is one of the most powerful player consultants in the NBA, he has stars like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton and Rajon Rondo among his clients. Duffy was already a big hit in 2003, including deputizing for 2002 top pick Yao Ming. Another protégé was Anthony Carter, then 28 years old.

Carter went undrafted in 1998 and developed into a solid NBA player through the Miami Heat’s famed Player Development Program. His buzzerbeater in Game 3 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals will forever be part of Heat history.

In 2001, the Heat rewarded him with a 3-year, $12 million contract, with the final year including a player option. However, the point guard stagnated a bit, in 2002/03 Carter averaged only 4 points and 4 assists.

Anthony Carter: Just forgot the option

So it was actually a safe bet that Carter would exercise his $4.1 million option by the June 30, 2003 deadline. Only: It didn’t happen. Because Duffy didn’t update the Heat on his client’s decision. And suddenly Carter was on the free agent list.

Opposite to ESPN Duffy spoke of human error a few days later. “I really feel for the person in our office who is responsible for this and I can say that that person feels the same way,” Duffy said ESPN. “It went really badly, but the company bears my name, so I also bear the responsibility.”

For Miami, however, this error was a stroke of luck. Cap Space’s roughly $7 million suddenly turned into $11 million, giving Miami a chance to lure Odom to South Beach and trade him for Shaq a year later.

And Carter? He looked into the tube. Instead of four million, he had to settle for a minimum deal with the San Antonio Spurs (around $750,000) and was released after just five games. Nevertheless, Carter remained loyal to Duffy, also because the consultant admitted his mistake.

Anthony Carter: No grudges – and back to the Miami Heat

By 2020, Duffy was paying out of his own pocket the difference that an employee’s fatal error cost Carter. “I wasn’t actually mad at all,” Carter later admitted New York Times. “I didn’t really care, but suddenly different lawyers called me. […] I know Bill too well, things like that can happen.”

Carter was never to earn $4 million a year again, instead he stayed in the NBA with minimum deals until 2012, mainly because of his impeccable attitude. It’s been around 17 million over his entire career (excluding the millions lost), Carter is now back with the Heat, now as an assistant coach under Erik Spoelstra.

Either way, Carter Heat fans will remember it forever. On the one hand for his wild game winner against New York from behind the basket in Madison Square Garden, on the other hand as the player who made it possible for Shaquille O’Neal to come to Miami.

Anthony Carter: His career in the NBA

Years Team
1999-2003 Miami Heat
2003-2004 San Antonio Spurs
2004-2006 The Minnesota Timberwolves
2006-2011 Denver Nuggets
2011 New York Knicks
2011-2012 Toronto Raptors


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