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My past life as a sports agent: 'Going to California'

My past life as a sports agent: 'Going to California'

BasketballNews.com's Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock presents a series that will peel back the curtain from his time as a sports agent, giving a glimpse at some of his personal experiences working in the sports-agency business for over a decade.

In the first entry of the series, Babcock outlines his move to Los Angeles to begin his lifelong dream of working in basketball.

In the spring of 2006, I packed up my car, moved out of my apartment in Tucson, Arizona, and hit the road. In my rear-view mirror was the University of Arizona and my unavailing playing career; however, I wasn't looking back. In my mind, I was destined to follow in the footsteps of my dad and uncles — working in basketball. It was time for me to turn the page and start my next chapter.

On the other end of that road trip was a summer internship in Los Angeles where I'd be working at one of the biggest agencies in all of sports: Wasserman Media Group. At the helm of the agency's basketball division was famous sports agent Arn Tellem, who is now vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons.

(Before becoming a sports agent, Tellem worked as general counsel for owner Donald Sterling and the San Diego Clippers. Tellem was also instrumental in the team's move to Los Angeles in 1984. In addition, my uncle, Pete Babcock, had been the vice president of basketball operations for the Clippers while they were in San Diego. So my family had a long-standing relationship with Tellem dating back to the early 1980s before I was even born. Likely due to my family's relationship with him, I was offered a summer internship at Wasserman — and of course, I accepted).

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Having previously worked in the agency business for over a decade, many people ask me how I got started. Many 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, I had always wanted to work directly for an NBA team, even as a child. I thought I'd start my career as a coach and eventually transition into scouting — just like my dad did. I'll elaborate on all of that later.

While working for Wasserman, I had typical intern-type responsibilities, like sending faxes to teams or making airport runs for players and staff members. However, Bob Myers and Greg Lawrence (both agents) explained that my primary responsibility would be to assist in player workouts on the court and helping prepare their new clients for the NBA pre-draft process. It was the perfect starting point for a young, aspiring coach.

I was ready to begin my career working in basketball — a dream come true. But there was a big problem: where was I going to live? It was a paid internship, but like most internships, it was only entry-level pay, and L.A. is 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!

To some people's surprise, although I grew up in an NBA family, I was never given access to much money to spend on my own. Still, I have greatly benefited from my family's connections within basketball, especially early on in my career. My first stop in L.A. might have been the best example of that.

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 his mother-in-law's guest house for the summer — free of charge!

So I drove my car west on the I-10 across Arizona and into California. Cell phones didn't have GPS yet, so I grabbed my printed MapQuest directions and made my way into 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 simply be staying 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 be living for the summer.

When I finally pulled up to the house, I couldn't believe it — the place was incredible! It was like a house I imagined where a movie star would have lived. Eyes wide open, I pressed the button at the security gate, and an unfamiliar voice answered, "Hello?" I responded by telling the person 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 have my dry cleaning taken care of whenever I needed it. They then showed me to the guest house in the back. The whole situation was a bit surreal. I felt lucky, and I was lucky! It was perfect! 

I was a young, 22 year-old kid who was 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 the sports industry. Finally, after a disappointing playing career that weighed on me heavily, I had a chance to start fresh and pursue my ambitions of having a presence in basketball — separate from my family.

The following day, I began my first day at Wasserman and my first day working in basketball. With high hopes, I had a world of endless possibilities ahead of me.

Stay tuned for the next entry of this series: "My past life as a sports agent: The 2006 NBA Draft."

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on BabcockHoops.com.

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