In the spring of 2006, I packed up my car, moved out of my apartment in Tucson, Arizona, and hit the road. In my rearview mirror was the University of Arizona and my unavailing playing career; however, I wasn't looking back. I had always been destined to follow in my dad and uncle's footsteps, working in basketball. It was time to turn the page and start my next chapter.
On the other end of that road trip awaited a summer internship for me at one of the biggest sports agencies in all of sports, Wasserman Media Group, in Los Angeles, California. At the helm of the agency's basketball division was famous sports agent Arn Tellem, now vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons.
Before becoming a sports agent, Tellem had worked as general counsel for owner Donald Sterling and the San Diego Clippers. He was also instrumental in the team's move to Los Angeles in 1984. My uncle, Pete Babcock, had been the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations while they were in San Diego. Therefore, my family had a long-standing relationship with Tellem, dating back to the early 1980s before I was born. Likely due to my family's relationship with Tellem, I was offered a summer internship at Wasserman. And, of course, I accepted.
Nowadays, after having worked in the agency business for over a decade, many people ask me how I got started. They assume I went to law school and had a sophisticated, well-thought-out plan to pursue a career as a sports agent. Well, that wasn't the case at all. Contrarily, even as a child, I had always wanted to work directly for an NBA team. I thought I'd start my career in coaching and eventually transition into scouting, just like my dad did. I'll elaborate on all of that later.
In addition to having typical intern-type responsibilities, like sending faxes to teams or airport runs for players and staff members, Wasserman agents Bob Myers and Greg Lawrence explained to me that my primary responsibility would be to assist in player workouts on the court, helping prepare their new clients for the NBA pre-draft process. It was the perfect starting point for a young, aspiring coach.
My first job was set, and I was ready to begin my career working in basketball, as I had always dreamed of. But there was a big problem: where was I going to live? It was a paid internship, but like most internships, it didn't pay all that much, and L.A. was a costly place to live. My dad worked in the NBA for years, and my family did well, but I assure you I was not on any "gravy train." I needed help!
I think, to some people's surprise, although I grew up in an NBA family, I was never given access to much money to spend as my own. Still, I will admit I have greatly benefited from my family's connections within basketball, especially early on in my career. And my first stop in L.A. might have been the best example.
After tapping into my family's network and trying to find somewhere to stay for the summer, our family friend, Sam Goldfeder, an agent for Excel Sports Management and, ironically, a competitor of Wasserman's, graciously offered to let me stay in the guest house of his mother-in-law's place for the summer, for free!
So, I drove west on the I-10 across Arizona and into California. GPS on cell phones wasn't around yet, so I grabbed my printed Mapquest directions as I entered the L.A. area. Before I knew it, I was in Beverly Hills, one of the world's most prestigious neighborhoods. I passed the Beverly Hills Hotel, and it dawned on me that I was at the final steps of the directions:
Head east on N Crescent Dr toward Sunset Blvd
Sharp right onto Sunset Blvd
Slight right onto Benedict Canyon Dr
The destination will be on the left
Sam hadn't told me any details about the house or the setup other than that I would stay in the guest house. I was relieved and thankful that I had a place to stay, but I was still curious to see where I'd live for the summer. I couldn't believe my eyes when I pulled up to the house; it was incredible! It was like a house I imagined a movie star would have lived in. Eyes wide open, I pressed the button at the security gate, and an unfamiliar voice answered, saying, "Hello?" I told them who I was and that I was supposed to be staying in the guest house for the summer. Subsequently, the gate opened, and I pulled my car into the wrap-around driveway. I was greeted by several women who worked for Sam's mother-in-law at the house. They said they would make me dinner, buy groceries, and take care of my dry cleaning whenever needed during my stay. They then showed me to the guest house in the back. It was perfect! The whole situation was a bit surreal. I was lucky!
I was a young twenty-two-year-old kid, fresh out of college, set to spend the summer living in the heart of Beverly Hills among the rich and famous, all while working for one of the biggest agencies in all of sports. After a disappointing playing career that weighed on me heavily, I had a chance to make a new start and pursue my own ambitions of having a presence in basketball, separate from my family.
So, as it goes in the Led Zeppelin song "Going to California," there I was, "standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard as it seems."
That very next morning, I was set to begin my first day at Wasserman and begin what would become an exhilarating, winding journey.
Continue reading: "My Past Life as a Sports Agent: The 2006 NBA Draft."