Former NBA guard Cuttino Mobley filed a lawsuit against Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, accusing the New York Knicks of pressuring him to retire as a way to save approximately $19 million.
Mobley retired because of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, shortly after the Knicks acquired him from the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 21, 2008. He knew he had an irregularity with the heart, but an MRI exam the team ordered after his physical revealed the more serious condition.
The lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York contends the Knicks knew of Mobley’s condition but pushed to make the trade anyway, then sent him to specialists they knew would oppose him playing, so insurance could pay his contract and it wouldn’t count against the luxury tax.
The Knicks were trying to create salary-cap space for the summer of 2010, and the trade allowed them to move Zach Randolph’s hefty contract. The Knicks could have voided the trade after Mobley’s test, but instead waived the physical requirement – a decision that the suit said meant $19 million through insurance payments and amounts saved under the luxury tax.
”The Knicks saved millions, and cleared room under the salary cap in their quest to retain the services of other marquis players, but Mobley’s career was effectively ended,” the suit says.
It adds that Mobley had been medically cleared to play every year of his career and had never experienced any symptoms, and that he has suffered ”irreparable injury, monetary damages, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, and other compensable damages as a result of defendant’s discriminatory practices.”
The Knicks said they understood Mobley’s frustrations but were ”extremely disappointed” in his actions.
”When the Knicks obtained Cuttino in November of 2008, the team fully expected him to be our starting shooting guard. It was a significant set-back to our team when we learned he would not be able to play following initial reports from his physical,” the Knicks said in a statement.
”The team and Cuttino agreed he would then see top experts, including doctors at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and additional experts, for various opinions. On the day of his retirement, Cuttino publicly stated that he had no choice but to follow the advice of the doctors and step away from the league. We are confident Cuttino’s claims have no merit and will not prevail.”
Mobley averaged 16 points per game in 11 NBA seasons and was expected to assume the guard spot that was vacated when the Knicks dealt Jamal Crawford to Golden State in another trade the same day they acquired Mobley. But he never played for New York, spending his brief time with the team seeing four specialists around the country for further information about the disease, the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in people under 30 years old and linked to the deaths of former Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers.
Then 33, Mobley said at the time that ”the doctors said to not chance it and I feel as though they’re right, having an 8-year old son, having a long life ahead of me, it’s the smart thing.”
But the lawsuit says Mobley has never filed his official retirement paperwork and has had discussions about a contract with other teams, but that none of them would sign him because the Knicks had medically disqualified him.