For overseas basketball players, there is a trend developing. Long-term commitments are becoming few and far between. More and more often, when players, teams, and agents come together for the first time, it is for one reason, and one reason only–to sign the contract.
Waay, Waay Back when I came out of college, the player-agent relationship was different. It was sorta like you see in the movies. Agents courted you. You made your demands, and then they went out and tried to get your contract. They would come to your house, take you and your family out to eat, and check back in every 4-5 days to make sure you were happy. They’d front you some money, pay for your exposure trips, and make sure you were fully prepared, mentally and physically when they found you a deal.
My how times have changed!
I won’t go into all the reasons for the change, but I will say this. The internet, technology, and the free flow of information have a lot to do with it. Another part of it is that people who have no clue about what they hell they are doing, are being allowed to run around crazy and act like they do. And when they don’t live up to the hype, or even keep their word, we as players don’t put them on blast. But that’s another story (please comment on this post if you have something to say).
OLD DOG, OLD TRICKS
I like to ask a question to my friends who are veteran players– guys (or gals) with 6 to 8 years of experience in multiple countries. I say, “do you really think you need your agent?”
The ‘new’ paradigm is one where agents are spending less and less time, if any, on recruiting, signing, educating, and looking out for the best interest of players, especially unexperienced players.
Most say,” Hell No! I can do what he/she does by my damn self!”
The reality is, very few of my friends will be calling up teams and negotiating their own deals anytime soon. But then there’s some that do, and do it very well. The fact is, players have been ‘doing it themselves’ for a long, long time. I know. One of my mentors who played until he was 45 put me on to it, and I learned to do it myself.
It makes sense when you think about it. After playing in a number of leagues and for a number of teams, players have everything they need to cut out the middle man.
As a veteran player with experience in multiple leagues internationally, most of the job is done. You are well-known, which is 80% right there. The role(s) in which you are comfortable have been established. Your skill-set is polished. Your character is well-known (and hopefully highly thought of). You have logged enough stats to empower teams to realistically anticipate an expected level of performance.
In other words, they know who you are. They know what you can do. And all it comes down to is… are you a good fit? and do they want you to play for them? After that, its.. are you available? Do you fit in our budget? Will you accept our offer? Contract. Done.
Because of this, some veteran players may choose to remain unsigned with one particular agent, or they may choose to have contracts with multiple agents. In the years leading up to my retirement, I had contracts with multiple agents who represented me only in the countries in which their agency network was well-established.
Some veteran players also leverage their past relationships with teams, coaches and general management to sniff out opportunities. When they find someone who is interested, that’s when the player calls one of his agents to draft, negotiate, execute, and enforce the contract.
ROOKIES AND LESS ESTABLISHED PLAYERS
The ‘new’ paradigm is one where agents are spending less and less time, if any, on courting, signing, educating, and looking out for the best interest of players, especially unexperienced players. The majority of an agents’ time is dedicated to beginning and solidifying relationships with teams, coaches, and other professional management.
Players are doing the same. They are more inclined to weigh their options and stay free and clear from signing with one particular agent or agency. Instead, they are choosing to leverage many agent relationships, signing with one only in the case that the agent presents the right deal.
For better or worse, this is happening more and more each day.
TEAM PERSPECTIVE: WELCOME TO BALLER KING
Some young players are also reaching out directly to teams themselves. The most interesting thing about this new phenomenon is that teams are beginning to do the same thing. I’ve talked to a number of players who have received job offers directly from teams even while they were still in college. I wonder what the NCAA or the people at the Schooled Film would have to say about that?
Some, smaller budget teams, are even taking it as far as looking for players who are not signed with an agent in hopes that they can get more bang for their buck, by avoiding the agent fee and putting it directly into the investment for their player.
In this high-tech, fast-paced age of international basketball, teams are
smarter have access to more information, more demanding, and unfortunately, less willing to spend. Its sorta like the motto of the fast food chain known as Burger King, in this case, Baller King. You know…”Your Way.Right Away..at Ball King now.”
Teams are very much in tune with their needs and understand that there are plethora of players out there to choose from. They are demanding but patient, difficult to please but cheap. That is, until time is of the essence. Then they are impatient and cheap. They want their player, their way, right away. Agents are forced to deliver, and do it fast.
I recently helped coach a player through her contract negotiations. An agent had been looking for a specific player type and reached out to her to gauge her interest. The initial contact was a very vague email that included absolutely no details about very basic things that every deal usually has. It wasn’t until after about 5 or 6 exchanges that we were actually able to verify that the agent was really who she said she was and that the offer she was extending was a ‘real offer.’ And even after that, it wasn’t very easy for us to actually get what we were asking for–a contract! In no time we were able to verify that things were legit, and in less than a week, the young lady was on a flight to begin her career in Europe.
There are pluses and minuses to a situation where agents focus their attention on teams. On one hand, they have their ear to the pulse of the market. They know what teams are looking for and leverage this knowledge in order to present players that fit the needs of the organization.
But on the other hand, if agents remain uncommitted to players but seek out the type of player in need, then they run the risk of not being able to find an unsigned player before the need is fulfilled OR worse, present a player that the team is already considering after being presented by another agent.
And then there’s the touring agent. One that selects a limited number of free agents to play against teams in multiple countries with the hope that a player meets the specific needs of team that sees or hears about the player while on tour. This model is extremely difficult to execute, very limited in its capacity for successful outcomes for both the player and agent.
While remaining uncommitted to an agent may be a good move for some veteran players, the fact remains that having an a good, competent agent under contract and working on your behalf is always a good thing. BUT that doesn’t mean one should ever kick their feet up and wait for the phone to ring. Stay informed, stay ready and be educated about the contract signing process.
Which brings me to a huge point. The reason that veteran players can leverage many team and agent relationships to shop around for the best contract offer is because they ARE veteran players. They are experienced in knowing the negotiation process. They know what comes standard in contracts. They know what loopholes that teams may look to include. They also know what perks they can realistically ask for. And most of all, they know how to look it over and accept or reject pretty quick, without burning a bridge on a future opportunity from the same team or allowing the window to close on the opportunity.
This point is so incredibly essential to comprehend because in the NEW landscape of player, agent, and team relations, the player needs to be able to look out for his best interests before during and after the terms of the contract. If not, money could be left on the table, or never collected at all. Worse yet, his career and even his livelihood could be put at risk, all because of the failure on his part to recognize that a contract was missing 1 or 2 simple lines of text.
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iBall United is committed to build and sustain the careers of basketball professionals around the world. For more information on how iBall can do the same for you, visit our website at http://iballunited.net.