If you are seeking an agent to help get you a job playing professional basketball, understand this: An agent is only as good as you are. Meaning, no matter how great of a salesperson your agent is, if your game video shows an inadequate player, there isn’t much your agent can do with it to get you signed. An even if he does pull off a magic trick and gets a weak player signed, you can’t hide behind your agent on the practice/game court. The team will see what you are or are not, and that will be that.
What Agents Do For Your Playing Prospects
As far as overseas ball goes, agents = connections. An agent knows people whom you don’t know, and can have relationships with clubs where a particular club will trust that agent’s word on players (whom the agent represents) to sign next.
This helps both sides: the team saves time searching databases of literally thousands of players who want to play pro ball, and the agent gets his clients signed and paid (and the agent gets paid — by the team, NEVER by you). Of course, it’s important that the agent be good to his word, meaning that the players he sends to a team better be good players. If an agent sends a weak player or two to a team the agent has built a relationship with, that team may decide to “turn off the faucet,” so to speak, with said agent and take their talent search elsewhere.
So an agent is incentivized to have a stable of good players to send around the world. Meaning, when an agent turns you down or ignores your request for representation, that’s their way of telling you they don’t feel they can a) market you properly and/or b) get you singed and/or c) keep their good name by sending you to a team they have a relationship with. Some agents may say that they have too many clients at the time to take on more, which may be true. But if LeBron James walks into their office with the same offer, he’s leaving with a new agent. Take that for what it’s worth.
As far as exposure goes, agents can get you into camps or combines where you can be seen by overseas decision makers, sometimes covering entry and travel fees on your behalf (which the agent expects to make back by you getting signed to a contract in the future — nobody does something for nothing). An agent could also get you included in invite-only workouts or tryouts that you wouldn’t be able to talk your way into alone.
Many agents I’ve dealt with work on non-exclusive agreements — which means that they represent you on a case-by-case (or contract-by-contract) basis, and if they get you a contract, they get paid (by the club) for bringing you to the club and they’ll take the credit for getting you signed (usually in the form of posting you/your good news on their website, Facebook page etc. as credibility for their company — sometimes they take credit even if they didn’t get you the deal!
But no real harm in this; it just puts your name out there in more places (which can’t be bad). But, if during the course of waiting on a contract, Agent B or some other opportunity arises for you, you are 100% free to take advantage of that other situation with no legal recourse by your non-exclusive agent. This works for both sides: the non-exclusive agent doesn’t feel the weight of you waiting and depending fully on them, and you are free to pursue deals on your own or with any other non-exclusive agents out there.
Most agents will be clear about this situation up front: “We will work on getting you a job, but you’re free to look on your own too. If you do take a contract elsewhere or with another agent, just tell us, so we aren’t promoting you for jobs you are not even available to take.”
Some agents/agencies, however, will want players signed to them exclusively. In my experience, this happens with higher-level players (read: you came from a bigger college) or players who have proven themselves very well in a particular job/country, so the agent pretty much knows he can get you another contract, thus he wants full rights to you. This works great for the agent for obvious reasons, and also for the player, who can relax knowing that his agent is doing all the marketing and sales work for his next contract; all the player has to do is be in the gym practicing, in game shape, and be ready to go when the call comes. The best-paid players I’ve known have all been in exclusive agreements with their agents. Exclusive agreement = a signed, binding contract between you and an agent.
So what if you have no agent, what can you do? You can reach out to agents. Eurobasket is a good resource for agencies (there’s an Agents page with links/info to a bunch of agencies). You can also do simple Google searches for agents in your area (maybe you can meet someone face-to-face or have them see you play if you have no stats/video).
What do you say to them when you do reach out? Sell yourself! Why should that agent give a damn about you, what with the hundred other emails/calls he’s getting from random hungry players? This is your job to do — figure out what makes you worth the time and express that. Always remember: talk is cheap. Saying you’re hungry and telling some person who has never heard of you how good of a shooter you are and what your vertical is means less than nothing. Offer to send a video over and/or some stats from your last playing situation (better yet, include it in your initial contacting of them). Don’t have any video or playing situations? Get off the internet and go get some. If you are not good at this sales thing, work on it and learn: Sales skills will help you in all areas of life, well after basketball (whenever that is).
Questions that have come up:
- FIBA certification, to me, shows that the agent has made some investment into his work since (s)he filed paperwork and went through this process. Presumably, FIBA certified agents have more connections and access that those who are not. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that this agent is “better” than one who is not certified. I would cast my net as wide as possible, regardless of who the agent is and what paperwork he has. The overall outcome has nothing to do with who the agent is, it’s about you getting a job. So if a non-FIBA-certified agent agent offers you a playing opportunity, would you take it? Of course!
- *** You do not pay your agent, up front nor after the fact, when you play overseas. I cover that in more detail here. ***
- Traits of good agents: They get you playing opportunities (though it’s really your job, not theirs).
- Traits of bad agents: They don’t get you playing opportunities (though it’s really your job, not theirs).
- DISCLAIMER to #s 3 & 4: I already stated here that it’s not really the agent’s job to get you a job — if you can’t play, no agent can fix this. No film, no resume, no game = your problems to fix. Not an agent’s.
Your other option, sans agent, is to market yourself directly to teams (again, Eurobasket). This is how I built 90% of my playing career, though times have changed from when I graduated college in 2004. How so? There are many more players out there (there were plenty of players then, too, but we seemed more spread out since the internet was not so big — I sent a VHS tape to my first agent, for example), many more exposure camps (there were only about 5-10 total, all summer, back then — now there are 100), everyone is online sending emails and YouTube links, so there’s generally more “noise” for agents to cut through.
Bottom line is, you’re looking to play professional sports, which means you are claiming yourself to be an adult. I did not write this as a color-by-numbers guaranteed way for you to get on (and I am not an agent myself, nor do I have a pipeline to any for you). You’re a man/woman: Be one and take responsibility. Be creative and do what you have to do, so later on you can do what you wanna do.
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