In every business, there are always people who are working behind the scenes. That’s what agents are to NBA players. They represent their clients to the best of their ability, whether that involves negotiating contracts and clauses that the players want or giving advice about their clients’ career paths. It’s not an easy job, by any means, but it is a necessary one; plus, NBA agents are compensated really well. Speaking of monetary compensation, how much do NBA agents make?
Do All NBA Players Have an Agent?
The vast majority of NBA players have an agent, but some do not employ one. These players represent themselves in contract negotiations and look to seal their own deals. This occurs more frequently among seasoned players with a solid reputation in the league and an excellent grasp of the business side of professional basketball. They might have faith in their capacity to manage these situations without an agent’s help.
For example, Dirk Nowitzki never had an agent or someone managing his businesses. The German never felt the need for one and went with his gut instinct. He negotiated all his Mavs contracts and never really did endorsement deals outside of his shoe contract with Nike. Nowitzki never changed his stance on the agent and marketing thing, even though he has Mark Cuban as a boss.
James Harden is another example of a famous NBA player without an agent for years. Harden did not see the need for an agent since he could pick out the elements of his contract as a max-level player. However, he hired agents Jason Ranne and Chafie Fields to talk to the Houston Rockets and complete a deal that sent him to the Brooklyn Nets in 2020. After the deal was done, the working relationship also ended.
What Do NBA Agents Do?
NBA agents are crucial for the success of many basketball athletes. With them, the players can sit tight and focus on working on their game to prepare for the season ahead. So, what do NBA agents do? Consider some:
- Contract negotiations. Since this is an agent’s primary duty, he must know the inner workings of the salary cap and the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). They must also be excellent communicators to pull these negotiations off.
- Act as the player’s image enhancer. It is the agent’s job to ensure that the public has a positive perception of the athlete. To do this, most agents oversee the player’s social media presence. They also handle any controversy coming the player’s way and help in damage control if the player gets in trouble.
- Career Guidance. Agents offer career advice to their player clients, assisting them in making choices consistent with their long-term objectives. This can include suggestions on which teams make the most sense in free agency, contract options, and other career moves.
- Draft Preparation. Player agents do much for the young hoopers hoping to enter the NBA Draft. For example, they help draft hopefuls navigate the pre-draft process and often schedule workouts and interviews.
- Takes Care of Off-court Stuff. Agents are essentially the caretakers and babysitters of the players. They take care of stuff such as where a player rents an apartment, and any type of off-court help the athletes need. When players are traded to another team, part of the agent’s job description is to make the transition as smooth as possible.
How Much Do NBA Agents Earn?
Agents thrive under stress and chaos, so they also get paid handsomely. How much do NBA agents earn, then? Well, according to Forbes, the maximum commission an NBA agent can get is 4% of their negotiated contracts.
If you think 4% is chump change, think again. For instance, a four-year, $40 million deal is pretty cheap in the NBA nowadays. If an NBA agent pulls off a deal worth $40 million, he pockets 160,000 off that deal.
Now, what if the agent has a superstar client like, say, Steph Curry? Curry signed a four-year, $215 million contract extension that commences in the 2023-24 season. Based on these numbers and computations, Curry’s agent, Jeff Austin, took $8.6 million off that deal, exclusive of a signing bonus. If, for the sake of argument, Curry had a $20 million signing bonus, Austin pockets $800,000 from that alone.
On top of these NBA contracts, NBA agents secure additional commission-based earnings on the player’s endorsement deals. These commissions may go as high as 20%, depending on the agreement between agent and client.
With these things considered, how much do NBA agents make a year? It’s hard to pin down a number but take the example of the current No. 1 agent Jeff Schwartz. Schwartz had 39 players under his care, with total salaries of over $538 million in 2023-24 alone. That means Schwartz will earn over $21 million this season alone, not including his commission on signing bonuses and endorsement deals.
Benefits of Becoming an NBA Agent
Besides the potential of earning top dollar year after year, becoming an NBA agent has its perks. Becoming an agent is stressful and a 24/7 job, but there’s never a dull moment.
Here are more of the benefits of becoming an NBA agent:
- The NBA world is your oyster. Being an NBA agent gives you access to the business side of the sports world. Agents have a unique view of the sport because they frequently collaborate closely with NBA clubs, executives, players, and other professionals. Some player agents transition into a front office role, such as Rob Pelinka of the Lakers and Bob Myers of the Warriors.
- NBA agents have lots of travel opportunities. These include games, events, and business meetings.
- An NBA agent’s job, while chaotic, can be highly gratifying. An agent can significantly influence their players on a personal level and have a direct hand in their development.
- Who doesn’t want to be rubbing elbows with the league’s who’s who? Even if the players are not his clients, NBA agents can still build a rapport with them or with their team owners and executives.
How to Become an NBA Agent: Requirements and Qualifications
Stars had to align for someone to be an NBA agent. There are 93 agents who secured at least 10 figures for their clients in the 2023-24 season. What does that mean? It means it’s not easy to face top-ranking NBA team officials and negotiate team contracts, so this job isn’t for everyone.
If you want to know how to become an NBA agent, though, pay attention to these drops of wisdom.
- You just don’t wake up one day after a hangover and decide to become an agent. You need the right educational background to proceed, a four-year degree related to business or sports management. Although not all agents, some are lawyers or have a law background.
- You need certification from the NBPA or National Basketball Players Association. Of course, the NBPA protects the players’ interests, and they need to convey these to the agents. Hence, securing an NBPA certificate will automatically put you on the map as someone who knows what the clients want and need.
- The next step is all about building relationships. It may involve a little push in the right direction and knowing the right people. That means you may need to do favors for coaches, executives, and players, whatever it might be. Sometimes, it boils down to “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”
- Gain experience by joining an established sports agency. This allows you to jumpstart the process, something better than starting your own agency from scratch. By joining a reputable sports agency, you can benefit from the agency’s resources, standing, and clientele.
As of the 2023-24 season, here is the list of NBA agents who got the highest client salaries negotiated and, thus, are also the highest-paid agents in the league:
1. Jeff Schwartz
Schwartz handles the most All-Stars in his stable and is tied for the most maxed-out players. The 39 players he represents make a cumulative $538 million plus in the 2023-24 season, putting his earnings at over $21 million.
2. Rich Paul
Paul founded Klutch Sports in 2012, and it’s been skyrocketing ever since. He is the famous LeBron James agent, and also has Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, and other big names under his care. Paul’s players will cumulatively earn over $502 million in 2023-24, putting his income in the vicinity of $20 million.
3. Mark Bartelstein
Bartelstein had the most players in his client list but ranks below Schwartz and Paul in cumulative earnings for 2023-24. His clients make over $411 million in the upcoming season, securing $16.4 million in his pockets.
4. Austin Brown
Brown’s client list is 30-strong, which includes Donovan Mitchell and Zion Williamson. These players make nearly $352 million in 2023-24, making Brown’s earnings for the year at around $14 million.
5. Aaron Mintz
Mintz negotiated nearly $268.5 million for his players in 2023-24, marking his cut at around $10.7 million. The players under his care are Paul George, Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell.
Wrapping Things Up: How Much Do NBA Agents Make?
The people who make the sports world go round are the agents. They do the wheeling and dealing, take the chaos on headfirst so that the athletes can go about their way. All things considered, NBA agents are the necessary middlemen of the business.
Doing all this stuff for the players, how much do NBA agents make? There are currently 166 NBA agents vying for 450 players. Some top agents, such as Jeff Schwartz and Rich Paul, earn north of $20 million, or 4% of their clients’ salaries. Of course, that doesn’t include the endorsement deals off the court, so it’s easy for these agents to make nearly $30 million a year.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.
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