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DunkOrThree > Your Basketball Blog > NBA Players Who Navigate Without Agents

NBA Players Who Navigate Without Agents

Publish Date: 13.05.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

Agents are a big part of sports. They help athletes navigate the business side of the industry and allow players to focus on the game rather than having to deal with extracurricular issues like contracts or negotiating deals. However, they aren’t for everyone.

Representation comes with plenty of benefits, but it has a few downsides too. As such, certain athletes choose to manage their own careers rather than hiring an outside source. Such occurrences are rare, but they are becoming more common as the NBA moves forward.

Why Some Players Choose to Go Agent-Free

Agents are as old as the NBA, and have been around for as long as players have needed contracts. Ever since the earliest drafts, it’s been assumed that athletes would get an agent when they entered the league to help them put together deals and manage their career.

Though that’s still mostly the standard, with 99.9 percent of the league using agents in one way or another, there have been a few big name stars who decided to manage their own affairs without any outside input at all.

There are a few big reasons for that decision, but the two largest are money and control. Agents can be useful, but they are also quite expensive. Having one doesn’t come cheap, and it’s even a biggest investment for new players trying to make their mark in the NBA.

Veterans have to pay their agents roughly four percent of their salary, but that number can go all the way up to 10 percent for rookies. There is some wiggle room to both of those figures, but no matter the final number it’s going to end up being a solid chunk of change.

Knowing that, bigger stars who expect to get large contracts or who already have a big deal on the table might choose to represent themselves to save money on the backend. Rookies moving to the next stage might go that route as well.

In addition, not having an agent gives players more direct control over their career. Agents make a lot of big decisions for athletes. The relationship is based on trust, but the transaction does take certain aspects out of the players’ hands.

If a star wants to ensure every decision they make is their own, all they have to do is not hire an agent. Some might also just prefer handling their own affairs without any external input, which is the right move for players who already have a good handle on what they want.

Notable Examples

As mentioned, very few players throughout NBA history have forgone an agent. Even so, it still does happen from time to time. A few big stars have chosen to represent themselves for the reasons listed above, and some continue to do so today.

Two of the most notable players to represent themselves were Ray Allen, who acted as his own agent for six years, and Dirk Nowitzki. Both hall of famers didn’t feel the need for agents due to how max contracts are handled and guaranteed in the NBA.

Another extremely popular athlete who didn’t have an agent was John Stockton. The all star had a great relationship with the Utah Jazz and never felt the need to add in extra representation. Both parties always had each other’s best interest in mind, which made negotiations simple.

Beyond that, Lebron James has represented himself during specific endorsement deals, DeAndre Jordan was on his own for most of his career, and Tim Duncan only had an agent for part of his career. Such examples are why some modern players go it on their own.

Challenges Faced by Agent-Free Players

On the surface, negotiation with NBA franchises without an agent is a tricky prospect. There are many risks involved with self-representation, including being taken advantage of, missing out on key deals, or not having the proper connections.

Without an agent, players might not hear about something like a commercial shoot or endorsement that could earn them additional revenue. Not having an agent could also split an athlete’s focus and make it so they can’t properly channel energy into their game.

In addition, they may also get strongarmed by a team in a way that could lead them to take a worse contract during an extension. They may also not be able to properly represent what they want in a clear way. That could then lead to them being an NBA player without a solid contract.

Despite that, most players who don’t have agents fare pretty well. The league contracts and salaries are set up in a way that most players understand, and the CBA makes it so everyone gets roughly what they’re worth.

While athletes who don’t have agents might miss out on some money or bonuses here and there, it is often still worth it to them due to the extra freedom of being in complete control of everything that occurs with their career.

The Broader Implications

Sports, including the NBA, used to be franchise first. Many big deals, free agent signings, and trades were largely out of the players’ hands. Owners, general managers, and coaches made moves, and the players went along with it. That, however, is shifting.

In all sports, players are taking more control over both their career and image. Where they once had very little say in how their professional life formed, they now are able to steer everything in any specific direction they want.

Though players have occasionally represented themselves over the past few decades, it was largely considered against the grain. Today, with the rise of social media and outlets like player-led podcasts, athletes have a much bigger presence with themselves and fans.

While agents will likely be the norm for a long time, if not always, there’s still a chance that the recent shifts are indicative of a change. More players could jump on the train and try to distance themselves from agents as the game moves forward.

As more NBA players forgo agents or a pre-planned contract, or as more veterans waive their own representation, the process will become less taboo as well. That could then open the door for players to take the route and try to navigate the space in their own way.

Of course, there will always be some athletes who prefer management as a way to find better opportunities or handle day-to-day activities, but there’s been a large shift over the past few years that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon.

Conclusion

There aren’t many athletes that choose to be their own representative in the NBA, but it does happen every now and then. When someone wants to save money or make more decisions, going on their own without an agent is the most efficient way to make that happen.

Players having more agency is a relatively new phenomenon, but one that largely makes for a more engaging sport. The rise of social media allows fans to better connect with their favorite athletes and pushes NBA players to the forefront of their own careers.

Though most people won’t encounter agents in their everyday lives, it’s important to take agency over your own career as well. Learning from why NBA players decide to be their own representation is a good way to enact more control of your own life.

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