Hall of Fame Guard Joe Dumars will once again play a role in shaping the NBA as he joins the front office of the Sacramento Kings. Dumars has already proven himself worthy as both a player and executive. He played the entirety of his 14-year NBA career with Detroit, winning two championships. He then went on to join the Piston’s front office where he was promptly voted Executive of the Year for the 2002-03 season. Most recently, he served as President of the Basketball Division for Independent Sports and Entertainment Agency (ISE) where he spent less than two years. ISE has been deeply engaged in their basketball department, representing notable clients like Demarcus Cousins, Penny Hardaway, and Alonzo Trier. Seeking a return to the other side of the ball, Dumars will now join the Sacramento Kings as they retool their leadership structure.
He will report directly to General Manager Vlade Divac. “I’ve known Vlade for decades, and I’m thrilled to work with him and the Sacramento Kings at such an exciting time for the franchise,” said Dumars. This excitement stems from a recent infusion of young talent with players like De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, as well as a new commanding voice in the locker room in Luke Walton. Divac referred to Joe as a “legend in our sport.” The Sacramento Kings continue to impress with their progression. This move will only expedite that process as a great basketball mind has joined the fight.
Recently, Sports Agent Blog had the opportunity to have a discussion with Jake Murphy, an up and coming sports agent who decided to forge his own path in the ultra-competitive representation industry.
Murphy is a Euless, Texas-native, graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Sports Management. After having the opportunity to research the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement during his studies, he developed an interest in continuing his education at the University of Florida’s Sports Management program with a specialization in Sports Law. Additionally, he pursued an online certification from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law specializing in Entertainment Law.
Upon graduation in December, Murphy will take the NFLPA’s agent certification exam in January 2020 as a 23-year-old looking to break into the industry. Our conversation with him can be seen below.
SAB: What made you want to start your own agency instead of pursuing opportunities at an already-established organization?
Jake Murphy: I’ve always been under the impression that there is a certain purity to the entrepreneurial route. I think so much more pride can be attributed to creating your own empire, rather than building upon a pre-existing one. When I came up with the concept of Murphy Sports Group, LLC., the fact that I could connect my name with it meant the world to me. I have so much respect for the firms and individuals who are already established in sports representation. However, if I were able to undertake a venture that my family would be attached to, that is all the justification I need to start my own agency and give it my best shot against all the competition. I love the fact that I have a comprehensive ownership in my personal successes or failures.
SAB: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced and hurdle you have overcome thus far?
JM: As far as overcoming hurdles, I think the easy answer would be the education that I pursued. As school has come to an end, I’ve truly enjoyed it because I got to study sports and entertainment. That almost sounds too good to be true. But in hindsight, it truly was a rigorous route that I pursued, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of it. Regarding the greatest challenge, I would also have to call it my greatest blessing. My family lost my mother to cancer in 2002. I can go into extreme length at how difficult that was at only six years old, but I am beyond fortunate to say that I’ve lived the life I have only 17 years later. I have had the most incredible loving family atmosphere surrounding my life. it was devastating for my entire family, but I truly grateful for my father and brother and the household I grew up in. My family has a long line of excellence in sports, and that is where my love for it stems from. But it didn’t stop there. The community that I grew up in truly validated the concept of “it takes a village.” So many beautiful people treated me like family without hesitation. Making them proud is just as important to me as making my own family proud. To this day, my family has grown immensely beyond blood relation. They turned a devastating event into the most beautiful life I could have asked for.
SAB: How do you differentiate yourself from the competition in an ultra competitive industry?
JM: One of the things that will separate me from all of the other agents pursuing an athletes signature is my age. I am trying to accomplish this feat at a young age, and I truly believe that will stand out to players. They will find me as someone who can relate to their life situation as a young person entering the daunting industry of professional sports. That is something that very few agents can claim.
SAB: How have your background and educational experience set you up for success?
JM: My education is one of the essential reasons I am able to pursue this career. I had to do a lot of my own research on what skills successful agents out to possess and I came to the conclusion that a law-based program would train me best to garner those skills. The University of Florida emphasized sports law and the University of Southern California emphasized entertainment law. Both of these programs that I participated in gave me a holistic approach of how to best serve my future clients. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for these programs and the Universities that I have so much pride in.
SAB: For those interested in pursuing a similar path, what is the best piece of career advice you can offer?
JM: You have to be willing to work for free. I have worked at this for many years at the POSSIBILITY of becoming certified. There was never any guarantee that I would become NFLPA certified, but I had faith in myself. Not only that but, above all, I have the best support system around me who give every reason to keep working at it. I have worked for myself for three years, for free, with no possibility of generating profits during that pre-certification timeframe. Now that it is all coming to fruition, it was absolutely worth it. One of my greatest mentors once told me that I’ll have “made it” when everyone else’s concept of excellence becomes my own personal standard. Expecting highly of yourself is a must. Remember that your goals should only be lofty to other people. Some may consider attempting to become NFLA certified at 23 is lofty. However, I had supreme confidence in myself, and that become my norm.
SAB: Looking ahead to the second half of 2019, how do you plan to continue and set yourself up for future success?
JM: NFLPA Prospective Agent Applications open in January 2020, but I have been working for three years now in preparation for certification. Myself, along with a wonderful cohort in our Murphy Sports Group Internship Program, have been intensely scouting College Football players who would be draft eligible at the time I achieve certification. We will continue this during the 2019-20 college football season. This exhaustive and intense scouting process is something else that will make Murphy Sports that much more attractive to a potential client. It is a year-round endeavor and we emphasize the holistic approach to these players as overall people, not just elite athletes. This year is incredibly important because the next crop of athletes are about to be exposed to the college football world. These are kids that we have watched since high school, and now they have the opportunity to showcase themselves in a more competitive collegiate level. We can’t wait to observe and highlight our targets for our first year of certification.
SAB: How can our readers follow you and stay up-to-date on your company news?
JM: Please follow along as we will be documenting the entire journey toward our January 2020 application. Feel free to follow us on all social media platforms @murphysportsgroup and email Jake@MurphySportsGroup.com with any and all inquiries. All website and project announcements will be made via social media.
After every agent and agency pursued the presumed No. 1 pick
in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson has signed with CAA Sports.
“This is going to be one of the most marketable players off the court who has come into the league since LeBron James,” said Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider. “Possibly a record setting rookie shoe deal, maybe the biggest since LeBron. This is like a moon landing for an agency to sign Zion Williamson.”
Austin Brown and Lisa Joseph-Metelus of CAA will represent
Williamson. Austin Brown represents several NBA players including Donovan
Mitchell, D’Angelo Russell, Rodney Hood, Collin Sexton and Jaren Jackson. Lisa
Joseph-Metelus worked very closely with Dwayne Wade throughout his career
especially with his off the court endeavors.
The 6-foot-7 generational talent, Williamson, is expected to
be the first overall pick of the New Orleans Pelicans at the NBA Draft in
Brooklyn on June 20.
Brown and Joseph-Metelus will be responsible for navigating Williamson through various endorsement deals, including his potential record setting rookie shoe deal which could be worth close to $100-million. Sonny Vaccaro, former Nike, Adidas and Reebok executive who has negotiated shoe deals for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, told ESPN, “In my lifetime, I think it’s going to be the biggest bidding war ever done”.
In addition to the Naismith Award winner averaging 22.6
points and 8.9 rebounds in his freshman campaign for the Blue Devils, Williamson’s
3.3 million Instagram followers and more than 324,400 Twitter followers make
him an even more desirable target for corporations across the globe. “If Zion
doesn’t change, I predict that he will be the first basketball athlete at 18
years old that the world is rooting for to become a billionaire. I say
billionaire, very easily,” Vaccaro said. “He is going to have an opportunity to
be the face of every company and every major corporation. He is the most
marketable person I’ve seen, for a lot of different reasons.”
VaynerSports announced that Andrew Brandt has joined the agency as its Executive Vice President. “Brandt provides a unique perspective on league and player negotiations, sports policy, player finance and other key business aspects of sports”, said AJ Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerSports. “We are very excited to welcome Andrew to our team and to take VaynerSports to the next level as we continue to stay on the cutting edge of the sports industry.”
Brandt, a graduate of Stanford and Georgetown University Law School, has extensive experience in the sports industry as a nationally recognized executive in sports business, academia and media. He began his career representing NFL and NBA players at ProServ working with athletes that included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Boomer Esiason. Then, he became the general manager of the Barcelona Dragons in the NFL’s World League. After the league was suspended, he returned to player representation for Woolf Associates, representing NFL players such as Ricky Williams, Matt Hasselbeck and Adam Vinatieri. In 1999, Brandt joined the Green Bay Packers as vice president from 1999-2008, negotiating all player contracts, managing the salary cap and handling all football business operations. After a brief stint as a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009-10, Brandt served as ESPN’s Legal and Business Analyst from 2011-17.
Currently, Brandt is the executive director of the Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law at Villanova University Law School, leading one of the nation’s premiere sports education programs. On a weekly basis, Brandt hosts his podcast “The Business of Sports with Andrew Brandt” and he writes a column for Sports Illustrated’s theMMQB.com. In addition, he serves as NFL business insider for Amazon Prime’s streaming of Thursday Night Football.
According to a press release by VaynerSports, “Brandt was introduced to VaynerSports via their partner and verified NFL Agent, Brandon Parker. Brandt and Brandon’s father, legendary agent, the late Eugene Parker, had a close relationship for 30 years during which time Eugene served as a mentor and friend in the industry to Brandt. Brandon foresaw the pivotal impact Brandt could have on the agency and connected him to AJ and Gary Vaynerchuk.”
been approached by several sports agencies over the years to join as a senior executive, and have respectfully declined,” says
Brandt. “Gary and AJ, however, presented a differentiated offer
with added value. While lending my experience and expertise to the
growing representation side, I also hope to leverage Gary’s expansive audience
to scale my own Business of Sports content. An opportunity to tap into unique
speaking engagements, entrepreneurial gatherings and other ‘next’ projects,
whether individually or alongside Gary, made too much sense to
co-founder, Brian McLaughlin commented, “As a leader in the sports industry, Brandt will be instrumental in
continuing to grow the VaynerSports team. His experience, especially
from his time on the team side, is invaluable. Andrew will be a strong advocate
for our clients, combining his knowledge and passion to achieve top results.”
With Brandt joining VaynerSports, the power-dynamics that Brandon, AJ, and Brandt generate come together harmoniously to build out a top-tier football team. Co-founder and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk tweeted, “Huge day for @vaynersports – @ajv they’ll see soon enough”, acknowledging his brother and the future impact of VaynerSports.
Brandt begins his role at VaynerSports effective immediately.
VaynerSports has announced a partnership with consulting company BrightLights to protect its pro athletes from financial fraud. Founded by David Byrne, BrightLights is “dedicated to provide professional athletes an understanding of their finances to decrease the risk of fraud and dishonest practices by the individuals entrusted with their investments and money.” VaynerSports athletes will have full access to all the services that BrightLights provides including: the rookie transition to the pros, scouting reports for financial advisors, monitoring of the athletes’ financial advisor and the reviewing of bank accounts, investments and fees.
“VaynerSports differentiates ourselves from other agencies
by challenging the status quo,” said A.J. Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerSports.
“This partnership with BrightLights aligns with our mission of providing value
for our clients well past their retirement, and there is nothing more important
than ensuring they are financially sound and protected.”
According to the Study of NFL Retired Players, nearly half of the 1,063 NFL retirees interviewed stated they had experienced significant losses in business or financial investments. Nearly half of younger retirees (age 25-49) had been given bad financial advice.
David Byrne founded BrightLights’ in 2017 with one key mission: protect individuals from fraud and dishonest business practices in finance. Byrne, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist, was a regulator at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for seven years. Prior to FINRA, David managed over $600 million as a client associate and financial advisor for Merrill Lynch.
BrightLights’ will not manage or recommend investments to VaynerSports athletes. Rather, Byrne and his team will provide the knowledge needed to understand the risks and fees of investments. “Pro athletes have doctors, athletic trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and many more professionals monitoring their physical health every day,” said Byrne. “Yet no professional has monitored an athlete’s financial advisor to ensure their financial health. This failure has led to an epidemic of fraud and exploitation against athletes, and our partnership with VaynerSports proves their commitment to their clients foes beyond contracts and endorsements.”
“VaynerSports is building
our reputation by investing in our clients for the long-term. This partnership
with BrightLights makes so much sense for our clients,” said Gary Vaynerchuk. “The
solution to fraud and financial exploitation against pro athletes is not
education because these guys don’t have the time. The solution is oversight and
monitoring. This is a way to break the system. I’m excited for this
Founded by Gary and A.J. Vaynerchuk, VaynerSports is “The Agency For The Modern Athlete.” It is a fully-integrated agency uniquely positioned to maximize the modern athlete’s potential by combining the knowledge and talents of skilled advocates with the marketing and brand building expertise of two cutting edge business innovators in the Vaynerchuk duo.
Among VaynerSports clients include Packers CB Josh Jackson, Panthers C Matt Paradis, Buccaneers RB Peyton Barber and Panthers QB Kyle Allen.
There are many different roles one can have in the NBA, but a lot of them all overlap anyway. Sometimes coaches practice with players; sometimes a front office exec helps out on the coaching staff; sometimes agents need to crunch the numbers like scouts to gauge their clients’ values.
That being said, an agent becoming a lead team exec is not exactly unprecedented (Jason Levien had a short stint as the Sacramento Kings’ assistant general manager in 2013 while Lon Babby had a six year run as the Phoenix Suns’ head honcho).
Currently, there are four former agents serving in high front office positions: Bob Myers (President of Basketball Operations, Golden State Warriors), Rob Pelinka (General Manager, Los Angeles Lakers), Arn Tellem (Vice Chairman, Detroit Pistons) and just last week, Justin Zanik was appointed general manager of the Utah Jazz after the excellent Dennis Lindsey was rightfully promoted to Executive VP of Basketball Operations.
Let’s take a look how each candidate got where they are, and how they have fared.
After playing basketball at UCLA and winning the 1995 championship, Myers served as a radio commentator for the Bruins before his agenting career eventually culminated with agenting powerhouse Wasserman Media Group, where he interned for Arn Tellem. Throughout his agent lifespan, Myers negotiated north of $575 million in contracts. In 2011, Myers was hired as the Warriors Assistant GM, but was quickly elevated to GM after only one year. Since then, other than drafting Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in the same draft, extending Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to team-friendly deals, hiring the fabulous Steve Kerr, establishing one of the best organizational cultures in the league, signing Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins in free agency and winning three championships, I’d say Myers has done okay for himself on the other side of the game.
Other than his illustrious careers as an agent and executive, Myers is an overall good human being. For instance, a few years back, Myers was playing pickup in a local Oakland gym when he encountered a particularly rough opponent who took a cheap shot at Myers, who fell to the ground. Myers got up and, according to the man, said “if you ever do that again, I’ll knock you down ever harder.” The man respected Myers’ toughness, and when he was looking for a sports-related job, he shyly asked Myers if there was any way he could help. Myers, the man that he is, got him an internship at the NBA Summer League.
After playing a role in Michigan’s Fab Five, Pelinka served as the leading man for Landmark Sports Agency, which represented NBA players such as James Harden, Chris Bosh, Eric Gordon, Carlos Boozer, Andre Iguodala, and most famously, Kobe Bryant. In 2017, Jeanie Buss tapped Pelinka to succeed Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss in the front office. Since then, he has drafted Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart as well as trading away Timofey Mozgov’s monstrous contract and signing LeBron James last summer. Of course, like most executives, Pelinka has had to make some difficult decisions, letting D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brook Lopez go and see them flourish in other situations. Pelinka faces a crucial summer ahead, with max cap space open to pursue free agents as well as wisely using the No. 4 pick in the draft and potentially trading for Anthony Davis.
Tellem grew to become the most powerful agent in the industry when he led Wasserman’s basketball division, but he decided to join the Pistons as Vice Chairman in 2015. Tellem’s day-to-day duties are murky, but it’s clear he wields a great deal of power in the organization, which states on their website that Tellem is a, “representative of ownership, and has broad responsibility for business strategy, planning and development, and strengthening the connection between PS&E and the community.”
After graduating from Northwestern, Zanik worked as an agent for Priority Sports and ASM Sports for about 15 years before being hired by the Jazz in 2013 as Assistant GM. In 2016, Zanik left to the Bucks to fill the same position, but it was understood he would eventually become the GM. But after some disagreements on the ownership level, that plan fell through and Zanik eventually went back to Utah. Just last week, he was finally promoted to general manager, and while he obviously hasn’t had time to make franchise altering decisions, he is very well-regarded within the league.
On Friday, May 10th, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee ruled to extend the ban imposed by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to all FIFA compliant countries. The decision comes just two days after the FIGC ruled that Carime “Mino” Raiola and Vincenzo Raiola violated the football governing bodies rules on how intermediaries can operate with FIGC athletes, but did not elaborate further.
While no explanation for the sanctions have come from official channels, last week the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta Dello Sport reported, that the decision came as a result of Raiola’s dealings in the ‘Scamacca case,’ where the transfer negotiations of teenager Gianluca Scamacca from Roma to PSV Eindhoven in 2015 were seen as unfair from Roma’s perspective.
As for Raiola, he responded to the ban by calling it “a sentence dominated by political willing, without taking into the right consideration of law” and “a sentence based on false grounds and lies,” according to Joe Wright of Goal.com.
While Raiola plans his appeal of the Italian Football Federation and subsequent FIFA sanctions, he leaves his clients in limbo during a pivotal time entering the transfer window. The transfer window, which opens May 16th for English clubs, and June 1st for Spanish, French and German teams allows for the negotiations of players between clubs and intermediaries. For client Paul Poga, currently at Manchester United, his desired move to the Spanish giants Real Madrid have come to a temporary halt. Reported by the Daily Record, those negotiations, sans Raiola, aren’t going as smoothly as once thought. Saying Poga, who is representing himself in those transfer talks, had his staggering £13million-a-year offer rejected by the Madrid board. As of today, Pogba has not dropped Raiola as his agent, and there have no signs that one of his other major clients, Matthijs de Ligt intends to either.
The 19-year-old Dutchman looks likely to follow Poga’s path away from Manchester United, where he was previously rumored to be heading, for La Liga rival Barcelona. Like Pogba, it seems that de Ligt will represent himself in transfer talks going forward.
With the sanctions against Raiola running from May 9th to August 9th, 2019. He and his clients will likely be excluded from any moves to English clubs, whose transfer deadline ends the same day his sanctions are lifted. However, he will be eligible to represent any clients looking at Spanish, French or German clubs, since their 12-week transfer period ends August 31st. For his clients, they still have the option to seek new representation, retain Raiola and represent themselves during transfer negotiations, or wait till their intermediary is cleared to join the formal discussion.
The Italian Football Federation is yet to respond to my request for clarification on the grounds of the Raiola Sanctions.
Athletes are not the only ones who feel the emotions that accompany wins and losses on and off the field. NFL agent Damarius Bilbo has experienced the highs and lows of the fickle representation industry all in the span of a few months. Bilbo negotiated a contract extension for his client, Xavien Howard, with the Miami Dolphins. The five-year, $76.5 million deal that includes $46 million guaranteed, is now the largest ever for a NFL cornerback. The 25-year-old Howard earned this extension after an impressive season culminating in his first Pro Bowl appearance. Credit must also be given to his representation team at Revolution Sports and Bilbo, who worked to ensure that Howard’s pay reflected his on-field production.
With the highest of highs, it is only normal to feel the lowest of lows as well. This record-breaking contract was a huge win, but as is often the case with representation, Bilbo had some clients pursue other representation. Former clients Jerome Baker, DJ Moore, Quincy Williams, and Austin Bryant have all decided to find representation elsewhere, separating from Bilbo. The fragility of the representation industry can be learned when looking at just one agent, in one offseason.
Here are the final notes on the
top agencies by number of clients drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft:
Creative Artists Agency- 22 clients drafted this year compared to 25 in 2018. Six clients in the first round and 8 in the second round. Agent Tory Dandy had 7 clients taken in the first 3 rounds including 2 in the first round.
Athletes First– 20 clients drafted this year compared to nine in 2018. Nine clients go in the first three rounds. Agent David Mulugheta had two clients taken in the first round.
Sportstars– 18 clients drafted this year compared to 15 in 2018. Nine clients selected rounds 2-4. Agents Jonathan Perzley and Brian Mackler had three clients selected in rounds 2-3.
Wasserman- 14 clients drafted this year compared to one in 2018. Eight clients go in the first three rounds.
Rep 1 Sports– 11 clients drafted this year compared to six in 2018. Seven clients selected in the first three rounds including two first round selections.
Lagardère Sports– Nine clients drafted this year compared to 12 in 2018. Seven clients selected in the first three rounds including four in the first round. Agent Joel Segal extends his record streak of multiple clients selected in the 1st round to 14 consecutive years.
Select Sports Group- Seven clients drafted this year compared to 12 in 2018. Five clients selected in the first three rounds including the first overall pick, Kyler Murray, who is represented by Agent Erik Burkhardt. The agency also co-represents the 32nd overall pick, N’Keal Harris.
Rosenhaus Sports- Six clients drafted this year compared to six in 2018. Five clients taken in the first four rounds including one in the first round.
Young Money APAA- Six clients drafted this year compared to six in 2018. Two clients selected in the first round. Agent Nicole Lynn became the first African American woman to represent a top-five NFL draft pick after the New York Jets selected Quinnen Williams 3rd overall.
Element Sports Group– Six clients drafted this year compared to five in 2018. Three clients selected in the first four rounds.
SportsTrust Advisors– Six clients drafted this year compared to eight in 2018. Two clients selected in round two.
Priority Sports & Entertainment- Five clients drafted this year compared to five in 2018. Two clients selected in round three.
Capital Sports Advisors- Five clients drafted this year compared to six in 2018. One client selected in round two.
Octagon- Five clients drafted this year compared to four in 2018. One client drafted in round two.
Other Draft Notes
The 2019 NFL Draft had 47.5M viewers and 600,000 fans in attendance- the most watched and most attended ever.
40 draft trades (most in the common-draft era).
39 LB taken (most of any position).
12 picks made by the Vikings (most by any team).
10 players selected out of Alabama (most of any school).
Having trouble viewing the spreadsheet? Click here to view.
At this year’s MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, NBA commissioner Adam Silver delivered his “state-of-the league” address. Delving into the topic of mental health, Silver described many NBA players to be “truly unhappy”, which has become a controversial topic across the sports world. Whether you agree with this take or not, it is evident that some of basketball’s most successful superstars are displeased with their current situations. Players are publicly demanding trades, calling out their teammates to the press, and switching agents at will. As a result, the landscape of the NBA is changing rapidly. One agency that has been affected by these changes is Wasserman Media Group: a traditional powerhouse in the business of professional basketball.
Wasserman Media Group was founded in 1998 by Casey Wasserman, a former investment banker and owner of the AFL’s Los Angeles Avengers. Within four years of its formation, the company entered the sports industry, expanding outward through the acquisition of various smaller agencies. Spurred by this development, Wasserman has been a mainstay at the top of Forbes’rankings of the world’s most valuable sports agencies. This past year, the company held $3.7 billion in total contract value, netting $175 million in commission. The group’s success can be attributed to an impressive roster of agents, who’s portfolios consist of some of the most talented figures in the sports and entertainment industry. Historically, Wasserman’s basketball division has been its most prestigious, by virtue of super-agent Arn Tellem’s leadership. Under Tellem’s oversight, Wasserman’s influence over the NBA consistently flourished.
During his illustrious tenure as an agent, Arn Tellem’s clientele was exceptional, headlined by NBA Hall of Famers Reggie Miller and Tracy McGrady, and current superstars Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. At one point in his career, Tellem’s dominance of the basketball industry was so extensive that he either represented or oversaw agents who represented nearly 20% of all NBA players. Tellem also demonstrated a unique ability to mentor others. Prior to becoming the Golden State Warriors’ General Manager in 2012, Bob Myers worked as an agent for Wasserman under Arn’s guidance for five years. “He’s the guy who taught me most everything I have learned about the business”, the two-time NBA Executive of the Year said of Tellem. This aptitude for connecting with people and grooming young professionals was paramount to Wasserman Media Group’s ascendance.
Unfortunately for Wasserman, one of their most valuable assets decided to make the transition to the team-executive side of professional basketball. In the summer of 2015, Arn Tellem left Wasserman Media Group to join the Detroit Pistons as the Vice Chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment. Tellem found it hard to turn down the new challenge, and in an interview with Sports Illustrated, described the Pistons opportunity as being “much broader and the impact, potentially much greater.” While Mr. Tellem’s career accelerated to new heights, his decision impacted the NBA agency industry more than he could have presumably imagined.
Shortly after Arn Tellem’s exit, several notable clients left Wasserman’s NBA division, generating a snowball effect of players leaving in favor of competing agencies. The list of departures includes Joel Embiid, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jamal Crawford, Danilo Gallinari, Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Jabari Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Jrue Holiday, Marcus Smart, JJ Redick, Gerald Henderson, and Wayne Ellington among other premier players.
In addition, Wasserman’s team of agents began to diminish, as five player representatives left the group to pursue other opportunities.
Adding to the turmoil, in 2016, former Wasserman client Donatas Motiejunas found himself amidst a controversial contract dispute with the Houston Rockets at the discretion of agent BJ Armstrong. After Houston matched Brooklyn’s offer sheet of a four-year $37 million contract, Motiejunas was a no-show for his physical with the Rockets. Armstrong defended his client to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, stating “We have our rights. We’re not going to show up. We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what the Rockets do.” The discrepancy occurred over contract incentives, which existed in the offer from Brooklyn, but were absent in the Rockets contract. In the end, the decision to skip the physical only created negative publicity, after Houston used their leverage to convert his offer sheet to a contract which placed him on the active roster.
Although their basketball division endured some serious instability following Tellem’s exist, Wasserman’s rehiring of Jason Ranne as Team Sports COO and Executive Vice President has allowed them to remain afloat. With agents Thad Foucher, Greg Lawrence, and BJ Armstrong remaining on board, Wasserman continues to represent several superstar NBA clients such as Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson and Derrick Rose. In addition, Wasserman’s WNBA division has arguably been its most dominant of late, with the group representing the last four number one overall picks in the draft.
Since being drafted in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis had been one of Wasserman’s most star-studded clients. However, in the past year, it had become apparent around league circles that Davis was ready for a change. In September of 2018, the superstar announced his decision to part ways with Thad Foucher and Wasserman Media Group in favor of Rich Paul and Klutch Sports. According to ESPN Senior Writer Brian Windhorst, “a star player switching agents sometimes can create the implication that he wants to change teams.” Sure enough, several months later, the 6’ 10” big man found his name in the headlines again, after his blatant trade request prior to last February’s NBA trade deadline. Rumors swirled about a blockbuster deal that would send Davis to join forces with LeBron and the Lakers but ended without an agreement between the two organizations. To worsen the blow for Wasserman, on February 27th, Draymond Green followed Davis’ lead, leaving agent B.J. Armstrong to sign with Klutch Sports.
With the trend of player uncertainty in today’s NBA seeming to intensify, it appears that more movement of this nature is eminent. As players continue to desire change in their personal and professional lives, their frequent switching of representation should be expected in the future. As a result, the league’s agent business seems to be more volatile than ever. Without Arn Tellem’s dominance in the ultra-competitive practice of recruiting and signing players, it is only a matter of time before for a new leader reigns supreme. If Wasserman continues to struggle with the retainment of its most valuable clients, all signs point toward Rich Paul as the next man up for the challenge. With Paul and Klutch Sports firing on all cylinders, it appears the group is primed to overtake the peak of the NBA agency hierarchy. Unfortunately for Wasserman, Arn Tellem is no longer in the building to right the ship.
We reached to representatives at Wasserman for further comment and they refused to discuss.