Shady Overseas Basketball Agents, Flights and Fees: What You Should Know
Many professional / overseas basketball hopefuls spend a lot of time seeking and courting basketball agents to help with their causes. Smart idea — agents know people who you don’t know and have relationships that can get your feet in doors that would otherwise be closed in your face. Though you don’t always need them, and they don’t always need you, agents can help.
For the purposes of this post, let’s define “agent:” A person who’s capable of connecting you, the player, to a professional basketball team.
Every now and then, I receive a message from a player who’s not sure whether the agent (s)he’s been dealing with is legitimate. The question usually pops up once the topics of money, travel or finally taking some committing action has come into play.
- Player has been shopping himself to various agents; one agent finally bites. Agent says he can get you a tryout — but player must pay his own way to the country in question, upon which the team will provide housing and maybe food also.
- Random Agent contacts player, offering tryout or contract offer — player just has to pay a fee directly to the agent for facilitating the situation.
- Agent contacts player, offering a roster spot on a traveling team that will play versus established professional teams. Agent will cover housing, meals; player must pay for his own round trip flight and possibly a one-time fee in exchange for the opportunity.
The questions I get with these situations —
Is this legit? Should I be paying fees? I’m not sure if this is for real. Have you seen anything like this before? What do you think of this offer?
- Pay an agent a fee to help you land a contract: BOGUS. I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it here. Never, EVER, pay a fee to an agent for an opportunity or contract or tryout or anything — with one exception: After the season, when your agent (with whom you’ve signed a contract) gets up to a 4% commission on your contract. This is usually only with NBA players, not overseas. Overseas, the teams pay the agents 100% of their commission, NOT YOU, THE PLAYER.
- Pay-your-own-way Tryout offers: LEGIT. I participated in this process multiple times. I paid for my flight, the team housed me and (sometimes) provided food, and I played to earn my contract. Teams do this with lesser-established player to protect the team’s downside. They may not be sure of your skills and/or know that you don’t have any other options. While they’re offering you a chance, they won’t put their own money into you until they’re sure of your performance. The team, smartly, doesn’t want to take the risk of signing and investing in a player who possibly just can’t cut it for them (which may not necessarily mean you’re not good; just not good for them at that time), so they offer you a shot — you just have to buy your flight to get over there. They will provide you a place to stay; whether the team provides food is a 50/50 bet. Also know — the team may be making the same offer to several players at once, for purposes of pitting you all against each other for limited roster spots. If you take this route, be prepared to play against other paid-their-way Americans for your job.
- Team of Americans traveling to play vs various pro teams for a chance at a contract: LEGIT. I browsed a couple of these in my playing days but never seriously considered one (I was on one in Mexico, but the situation was different). I know players who joined these traveling teams to Europe, and I saw players get signed to teams from their performance on these teams. They are real and legitimate; you should expect to pay for a flight and have your meals and lodging handled for you. Bring spending/walkaround money.
- What I posted about labove are all offers, not guarantees. But, they are real opportunities which, if you perform well, can result in a contract. Nothing is promised, though.
- “Housing” brings a wide range of possibilities. You might have a roommate. The apartment may be small or old or sketchy-feeling or moldy or dirty or dusty or maybe all of the above. I’ve seen a lot. From a beat-up dormitory in Lithuania to a well-kept and squeaky clean and newly-built flat in Montenegro to the utter randomness of Mexico.
- “Food” follows the housing parameters. Good thing with food is, when you have money, you can make your own choices about what you eat. I advise that, especially when traveling, you stick to eating known stuff which you can identify. You’re not a tourist — you’re an athlete whose employment depends on your body. Eat smart.
- A “commitment” means having a signed contract and an open (changeable dates) return flight ticket home to the USA. Not one or the other — BOTH. Nailing down a commitment from a team is your top priority. Once that is secured, you can (somewhat) relax, knowing that you have a home (at least for the time being).
- Sometimes, a shady-seeming agent can hold the keys to a real, legitimate opportunity. That’s the randomness of this Overseas Basketball world.
- If you come from a small school, no school or are a relatively unknown commodity, your career — or at least the start of it —may bring with it a moderate-to-healthy dose of risk. Do not expect to completely eliminate risk in your dealings.