There are former players who have had success as agents — BJ Armstrong right now, for example — but star players have not gotten into the representation game.
Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal are changing that and opening their own firm. They got the advanced publicity train rolling by talking to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
“We think it’s needed, and we have a passion for it,” McGrady said. “We’re around kids every single day because we have youth programs. It just makes sense. We see the lack of information that these kids are getting, so we would be doing a disservice to our people if we don’t lend our expertise of what we know and help guide them. This is a calling that we have.”
McGrady said he would serve as a co-owner and adviser to players and most likely step away from the broadcasting role he has had the past four and a half seasons with ESPN. O’Neal intends to take the National Basketball Players Association test in January to become a registered N.B.A. agent and hold partner status alongside McGrady.
“Make no mistake,” O’Neal said, “this is very personal.”
The agency will be called Seven1 Sports Group and Entertainment, a combination of the numbers the pair wore in their playing days.
There are potential advantages to the former All-Stars leading an agency, they have been through what the player is going through, they can relate to the feelings — from the anticipation of draft night through trying to find another contract late in a career — and that matters.
Still, they will have to convince players that they can do the job. There are a lot of very good, very smart agents around the NBA who have built-in relationships with GMs around the league, agents who do a good job of understanding team needs, agents who have sophisticated marketing and branding programs for players, and who do a good job placing their client not just where they can make the most money but where they can have the most success. Maybe McGrady and O’Neal can do all that, but they will have to convince players they can in a competitive market.
McGrady and O’Neal’s company is something to watch in the next few years, they enter with star power. Now they have to turn that into something concrete.