Is Your Basketball Agent Actually Working For You? What You Can Do For Yourself

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Professional Basketball, especially overseas basketball, is a shadowy industry. Dealing with professional basketball agents only further confirms this truth.

While there is a governing body — FIBA — for agents, the effort level of an agent/manager/promoter is hard to quantify. You won’t always be able to can’t know how much your agent or manager is actually working on your behalf and trying to further your business and career. That’s kind of the nature of the position; your level of security regarding your agent’s efforts is more a matter of trust than anything else.

Here are some baseline truths for a pro basketball player when it comes to your basketball agent:

  1. An agent need NOT be on the phones 24/7 to be “working” for you. Some agents only need to make one or two calls to the right people to gage the market and make a deal happen for a player whom the agent represents. A well-established agent doesn’t have to run around crazy putting the word out about you — if he’s good and has been around for awhile, teams are calling him, asking about available players.
  2. There is only so much an agent can do when the product he’s selling is of average or low quality. That’s not to say that you are not a quality, professional-grade basketball player — it’s to say that your playing resume may not reflect the full extent of your abilities. Most of the time, the job you get is more about your to-date track record than it is about the agent. Remember, your resume of previous teams played for, your stats, and available game video are the only things, aside from the agent’s own reputation, the agent has to use in selling you. If your goods aren’t impressive, what magic are you expecting an agent to perform?

That being said, here’s my advice to a player re: your basketball agent:

  1. Depending on your to-date resume, continue working your own channels (if any) in addition to the efforts of your agent. I played D3 college basketball and thus had to hustle to get every contract I signed — including the deals I procured while I was signed to agents. To this end, every agent deal I signed was, by design, non-exclusive: If I happened to find a playing opportunity on my own or through a different agent, I had no obligation to the agent I was “signed” to. So even while I was signed to these other agents, I kept working for myself while those agents also worked (or didn’t work) on my behalf.
  2. Don’t sign an exclusive agreement — unless the exclusive agreement is offered in conjunction with a playing contract. If an agent wants you to sign with him exclusively, meaning you cannot work with any other agent for a basketball contract, the only way that makes sense in my eyes is if that agent is proven in his ability to get me signed to contract. Why be exclusive with an agent who has yet to even prove he can land me on a pro team’s roster? If an agent presents you an exclusive agreement offer, tell him just that: If I’m going to exclusively with you, that’s my guaranteed commitment to you — what assurance do I have that this deal is beneficial for my career? What guaranteed commitment are you making to me? NOTE: If you’re a new, unproven player — especially one who’s from a small school like I was, you may not have much leverage for having such a conversation. Which means…
  3. Agents ask for exclusive deals from players whom they’re sure will generate a return. In other words, that’s the player who’s already built a pro resume, or the rookie who played college ball at a high- to mid-major D1 school. These players are almost surely going to sign with a team — and the agent gets paid when those signings happen. So the agent wants to lock up that “sure thing” money. When your resume or background is thin, agents won’t be asking you for such deals. If you do have agents asking for such arrangements, you will probably have agent options. Choose wisely.
  4. Hurry up and wait. This is the inconvenient truth of being a free agent in a business like professional sports, acting, TV and such. Sometimes the phone just isn’t ringing, and your only recourse is to ring some phones and/or wait for someone to ring yours. I know this is hard to do, which is why point #1 above is point #1 above.

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