By age 25, I had gained extensive experience working for multiple sports agencies, exposing me to the cutthroat nature of the business, where lying, stealing, and cheating were the norm. A significant difference from the principles I learned from my family, who had worked as NBA executives for years and prided themselves on being ethical, honest, and fair. I found myself in a precarious place, constantly battling moral dilemmas. I realized the sports agency business, specifically in the NBA, demands resilience; "if you can't handle the heat, get out of the kitchen." However, I wasn't ready to give up despite my reservations and early struggles. I was determined to succeed as a sports agent without compromising my integrity or selling my soul.
I came to a point where I felt that maybe working for a smaller agency would allow me to find some relative success while avoiding some of the negative parts of the business. So, while in Las Vegas during the NBA Summer League, I had dinner with an agent named George Bass, who owned a company called AAI Sports, a boutique sports agency based in Dallas, Texas. Although the company was smaller than the companies I had worked for previously, George had some notable clients, including Larry Johnson, in the prime of his career with the Charlotte Hornets. (Remember the "Grandmama" ads for Converse?) George also had solid international connections, representing players like Jose Calderon, Luis Scola, and Andres Nocioni. He also worked in football, representing former Dallas Cowboys Michael Irvin and Darren Woodson, and negotiated head coach Les Miles' contract with LSU. And while all of that was impressive, what was most important for me was that George was an honest and decent guy — it was refreshing.
Shortly after, George offered me a deal to essentially have me run my own business under his AAI umbrella. And I'm assuming my display of confidence probably suggested I could do anything I set my mind to. But, in hindsight, the truth is, I was nowhere near ready for that; I still needed guidance. I accepted the job offer, but unfortunately, it was quickly evident it wasn't the right fit.
So, I decided to leave another agency, and there I was, navigating the uncertain waters of being a free agent and seeking a new opportunity again. The musical chairs that I continued to play was getting to be ridiculous.
Due to my dad's job as a college coach, then an NBA scout and executive, our family relocated regularly. And then, my involvement in the game as a player and then a young professional had me zig-zagging across the map, too. So, I guess you could say that change was a familiar theme throughout my life. But even though I had become somewhat used to it and relatively adaptable, I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of stability. And around that time, I started dating my now-wife, Meghan. And I knew almost instantly that she was "the one." So, all things considered, I understood it was time for me to get it together.
That's when Andrew Bogut, a star player for the Milwaukee Bucks, introduced me to his agent, David Bauman. On our initial call, I told David about my professional experience, interest to continue working in the agent business, and desire to represent players myself someday. And the next thing I knew, I was on a flight to Washington, D.C., to meet with David and discuss the idea of working for him.
While sitting in his office in D.C., David told me about his background, career, and company. He explained that he had worked for super agent David Falk, one of the most well-known and influential sports agents ever. Falk represented star players like Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, and Juwan Howard. He also represented another player you might have heard of named Michael Jordan. David Falk was as big as it gets. Bauman continued explaining that after years of working under Falk, he decided to start his own company, DB Hoops. And although it was a startup venture, his client list already included stars like Ron Artest, Peja Stojakovic, Andrew Bogut, and others. He wasn't starting from scratch by any means.
I thought, "Bauman is experienced; he was trained by one of the greatest agents ever. He has a great client list, and he's also an attorney. I can learn from this guy. And the company isn't too big. I can succeed here."
Thankfully, David offered me a job on the spot. He outlined the role he envisioned for me. I would essentially be his right-hand man and assist with nearly everything. He also didn't have a problem with me working remotely in Phoenix, Arizona, where I lived, which was very important because Meghan was there. Obviously, I accepted the job.
And when I got started, I loved it right off the bat. As promised, David included me in everything. I was helping his guys with marketing, and he taught me about the collective bargaining agreement, the NBA's salary cap, and the many intricacies of the industry. David showed me the ropes, and I began learning and growing rapidly. He helped me become a good agent.
From a learning and developmental standpoint, everything was going great. Still, I was also responsible for generating new business, which wasn't easy. I had to be aggressive in identifying and recruiting new prospective clients. I did my best to open doors, and I did some. For example, we had meetings in Starkville, Mississippi, with Jarvis Varnado and his family. After four seasons at Mississippi State, Varnado became the NCAA's all-time blocks leader. I thought David pitched to them well, and I was excited about the possibility of us representing him. However, Varnado decided to sign with agent Bill Duffy and his company, BDA Sports.
So, although I tried as hard as possible, I still struggled to make an impact. It was discouraging, but I kept going. And finally, I caught a break.
Through a mutual friend, I was connected to Orestes Meeks, the father of the star player from the University of Kentucky, Jodie Meeks. On our first call, I told Orestes about David and our company. I explained that I had worked for several prominent agencies and felt I had finally found the right fit. I continued to outline David's experience, credibility, and our company's structure. I told him that Jodie would get the proper amount of attention because we didn't represent many players. And he'd do so without compromising the quality of the representation. I emphasized that they would only deal with David and me — no one else. Orestes told me he loved everything and agreed to meet with David. At that subsequent meeting, Jodie agreed to sign with our agency, making him the first client I ever successfully recruited.
Surprisingly, things got even better as Orestes insisted on covering Jodie's pre-draft expenses, which is not the norm in the agent business. Typically, agents have to commit to paying for players' pre-draft expenses before signing them. The pre-draft expenses usually include housing, transportation, trainers, and sometimes food. And that's not even considering the often requested financial arrangements, which often serve as a bribe in some shape or form. But regardless of whether an agent does things by the book, the expenses add up, forcing agents to initially operate in a financial hole, sometimes a considerable one. To say the agency industry is one where "it takes money to make money" or "the rich get richer" would be entirely accurate. So, needless to say, for our boutique agency to be able to represent Jodie without any financial overhead meant we'd likely start making a profit on him as a client in year one. Obviously, it was great news.
The following June, Jodie was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks, my dad's team, with the 41st overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. David secured Jodie a three-year contract with the Bucks after an impressive showing at the NBA Summer League.
Things were rolling, and David seemed to trust me more and more, and my involvement and influence within our company grew.
So, after struggling to find my footing for a few years, I started to mature, and I caught some breaks: I found a great job and fell in love with a beautiful girl.
Stay tuned for the next story, or if you want to start at the beginning of "My Past Life as a Sports Agent," click here.