Over the past few days, I’ve spoken to many players who have graduated or are about to graduate from college. I love to ask them how that feels. Some are relieved. Some are excited to get started on the next stage of their career. Others are flat out confused–or worse. They’re scared.
Help is A Blessing
If they’re really lucky, players have already signed and have an agent working for them. With a little luck, they have agency offers on the table. The ‘not so fortunate’ have assistance from coaches, mentors, or teammates to help them figure things out.
A pretty far ways behind those players are ones that have help with their marketing materials–videos, stats, and resumes. Others have parents who jump back in the mix and help them find their way. (BSO to the parents!) … and that’s good… but not enough.
Most players are by themselves. Alone. Totally in the Dark. With nowhere to turn. They are targets. They have a great chance of being robbed–robbed of their $, and robbed of their chance at a career. Now THATS scary.
Your Agent is NOT Your Daddy.
For now, let’s say you are lucky, or you will be lucky very soon. You’ve signed with an agent. Instead of looking at the many super qualities and things that a great agent will do for you, let’s look at what your agent is not responsible for doing.
Your agent does not have to buy you a car. They don’t have to give you pocket money. They don’t need to pay your way to the movies, to the club, or to the exposure camp. They don’t have to answer your calls or texts about how you’re a great player and all you need is more playing time, or the right opportunity, or right sized paycheck.
At the end of the day, your agent works for his relationships, and the relationships work for you.
And apparently, they don’t have to tell you what leagues or countries they work, and where they think you would be a good fit. They should, especially before they do anything I mentioned above, but like I said, they don’t have to…apparently.
Sometimes your agent will do it all. And sometimes that’s great. But having your agent cater to your every need is really unrealistic in nature, guaranteed to be short-lived, and bad for business. It starts your relationship on a shaky foundation, one that will be difficult to maintain.
So think about that before you start blasting your agent for not giving you this or that. If an agent asks you to discuss things with your coaches or parents, and doesn’t promise you the world, that’s a really good thing.
A basketball agent’s job is deliver one thing — a contract with a basketball team. Period.
Note: some agencies have contracts with financial advisors, accountants, lawyers, marketing etc. they may offer you a bulk package of services. This article is focused on the contract with the basketball team itself.
Your Agent Works for You. But You’re Not The Big Boss.
An agent’s goal is to have long-lasting relationships with people that will be serving high positions in the game of basketball for a long, long, time.
So at the end of the day, who does your agent really work for? Think about it. The agency business (like all business) is all about relationships. Good agents work they’re butts off to build long-lasting relationships with GM’s, coaches, other agents, and other movers and shakers all over the world.
Relationships can be with people at different levels or stages in their career. The hope is that your agent’s strongest relationships are with people that will work hard, and help him/her grow in the business, together. And that the agent’s partners are leaders who are at the top of their game.
For example, its possible that an agent attends a small pro basketball camp in another country. At that camp, she befriends a coach who is working at the camp. The coach’s current position is assistant video coordinator to one of the worst teams, with one of the smallest budgets in the country.
But what if one day, that video coordinator works her way up to be the GM for one of the biggest organizations in her country? If the agent has maintained a relationship, then one or more of the agent’s players could sign with the GM’s team and other teams in that country for many years to come. Longshot–but it could happen. As an agent, you could spark many of these kinds of relations almost everyday, everywhere you go.
You (the player), on the other hand, will be around for 1-15 years max and earn the agent 3-10% commission on each contract you sign. Maybe that adds up to a few thousand in agent fees. Maybe not.
So at the end of the day, who should your agent be more interested in building a relationship with? Let’s use an example to illustrate.
So let’s say it’s late August and you’re getting really antsy. All your former teammates have already left the country and are in preseason at their new teams. So you’re hitting your agent up every day on facebook.
But so is that video coordinator she met in Slovenia. She’s whining about how her recommendations for players never get considered and how she feels unappreciated at the team.
If I’m your agent, and I had to choose one person to spend my time lending my thoughts (and thumbs) by chatting on facebook, I’m going with the video coordinator. Why?
Because at least she could end up helping me get your ass off my back by speaking to her GM and getting you a job. And again, somewhere down the line, she may even be the GM herself.
Now I am NOT saying that your agent has a right to not answer your phone calls. If they’ve done that for any long period of time (say 2-3 weeks with no reply) then its time to consider ending the contract. Total negligence for any reason other than being out of the country or out of commission for health, is totally unacceptable.
Your Agent is Not Your Best friend.
Before websites like Orbitz.com and Priceline.com took over, there used to be a really cool person called a travel agent. Back then, when you wanted to go on a cruise or find the best deal on a trip to Disney World, you’d call a travel agent. They’d find you the trip, you’d pay for it, they’d get a commission.
You wouldn’t call a travel agent to tell them why your boss should’ve given you a bigger bonus so you could afford a better vacation. You wouldn’t send them photos of your new flip-flops and ask if they’d be a good look for the beaches at Cancun.
So why do we expect more out of a basketball agent? I mean, I get it, but isn’t it basically the same set up. They find you the best deal. You sign. The team pays the contract. They get the commission.
Asking your agent to be your best buddy is doing him and yourself a huge disservice. The time and energy you want them to spend holding your hand, could be much better applied to networking or making phone calls on your behalf. More on that later. The point is, don’t think of your agent as your buddy. Their not.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s really good to have a friendly relationship with your business partner, but as soon as you start thinking of your agent as your homey, you get into trouble.
Your Agent IS Your Agent
You’re agents job is to market and promote you to the people who can ultimately make a decision to offer you a contract. Then, if they are licensed (and they should be), they can execute and protect the contract to see that you get everything promised in the deal. That’s it.
The really good agents will coach, council, motivate, and protect you. They may even take you out to eat from time to time. But they really don’t have to — that’s extra. And that’s what makes them good.
You Are Your Agent’s Keeper
At the end of the day, all the questions you have about the business of basketball (don’t have questions? that’s dangerous)…
- how your agent works to get you a deal
- what you can do to prepare for the team you go to
- what you can do to help make it easier to get you signed and keep contracts coming in the future
- how to treat the team that signs you in order to boost your stock, and ultimately boost the stock of your agent
- the things you need to make it easier for an agent to represent you
- and all the day-to-day knowledge you will need to build and sustain a pro basketball career.
.. all those questions are on you to find the answer. Some of us have learned the hard way. Others have had really good guidance from those who had been there before.
This is your career. Your livelihood. Take it by the horns, and make it do what it do.
If you have questions about this, contact Howard Brown, the CEO & Founder of iBall United and iBall Pro Combine at 610-624-3215.
Or sign up for the free e-newsletter, the Pro Baller’s Guide at: http://www.iballunited.net
iBall United homepage (sorry there is no mobile phone access): http://www.iballu.net