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
In the sixth entry of his series, Babcock shares how his
background of growing up in an NBA family influenced him to pursue
a career as a sports agent and how he got started with Jeff
Schwartz, Sam Goldfeder and Excel Sports Management to embark on
what turned out to be a wild and crazy roller coaster of a
I grew up in and around the NBA, having multiple family members
who've had successful careers as NBA executives. My family's
success has provided me with many benefits and unique
opportunities, and I'm certainly thankful. Still, it has also led
me to have an inherent burning desire to create a name and identity
for myself within the basketball world — separate from my
Despite a childhood that gave me full access to the
behind-the-scenes of the NBA — including team planes, locker rooms
and draft war rooms — I wanted more. Being "Dave Babcock's son" or
"Pete and Rob's nephew" has never been enough for me. I spent the
first part of my life putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on
myself to succeed as a basketball player. Subsequently, my playing
career was my No. 1 priority. I developed into a respectable high
school player, but didn't even come close to accomplishing my
overall goals. After I finished playing, I shifted my focus to
working in basketball. My burning desire to succeed didn't go away;
it grew significantly.
In early 2007, I was 22 years old and not even a year removed
from the University of Arizona and my unavailing playing career. I
had already completed a summer internship at powerhouse sports
agency Wasserman Media Group, where I assisted in training their
NBA draft prospects. I also had a brief assistant coaching gig with
the professional basketball team Virtus Bologna in Bologna, Italy.
Although I always thought my career path would be in coaching or
scouting, I left my job in Italy to meet with Jeff Schwartz and Sam
Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management to pursue a career as a sports
agent. I thought, "This is how I can pave my own way."
I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles, California and jumped
into a cab. I told the driver, "101 Santa Monica Boulevard, please.
I have a job interview." Pulling up to the fancy, high-rise office
building in the heart of West L.A., I called Sam Goldfeder, and he
told me to come up. Sam had become a mentor to me, as I had lived
at his mother-in-law's guest house in Beverly Hills the previous
summer during my internship, and he had also arranged a job in
Italy for me. He was pushing Jeff to hire me so they could groom me
to be an agent. However, there were no promises I'd get the job. So
I took a risk by leaving my job in Italy.
I walked into the office building and made my way to the
elevator. The building was filled with prestigious law firms,
financial groups and other professional businesses. There were
seemingly high-powered "suits" running all around. Excel, now based
in New York City, represented star NBA players, including Jason
Kidd, Paul Pierce, Lamar Odom, Al Jefferson and Tyson Chandler, to
name a few. It was a powerful sports agency.
Although I probably should have been nervous, with it being a
massive opportunity for me, I wasn't. I was young, confident and
fearless — a situation where "ignorance is bliss" applied, perhaps.
I got off the elevator and entered Excel's office, where Sam waited
for me. The office space was impressive, yet refreshingly casual
and comfortable despite the stuffiness of the building's lobby. Sam
introduced me to Duane Cooper, a former NBA player who had a role
with the company assisting with recruiting new clients. I then met
Jayme Messler, the head of marketing, followed by Heidi, Jeff's
assistant. Sam and I sat in his office for a short time and chatted
while Jeff finished a phone call.
After a few minutes, Jeff walked into Sam's office. He was a
nice-looking, polished professional with an intense presence. Jeff
briefly asked about my background, but then cut to the chase and
shifted his focus by drilling me about my intention to be a sports
agent and my commitment to pursuing that career path. He also
explained, and pretty much warned me, that being a sports agent was
challenging and not for everyone. I told him I was sure that I
wanted to be an agent and that I thought I would be successful,
having a good understanding of the inner workings of the NBA due to
the exposure my family had given me and that my network should
serve me well in that industry. I assured him that I lived and
breathed basketball and the NBA.
He then questioned my ability to handle the pressure that would
come with that career path. I explained my experience as a former
athlete had prepared me. Ultimately, he asked if I had considered
going to law school. I explained that I felt prepared to begin a
full-time career in basketball. My answers to his questions seemed
well-received, as both Jeff and Sam subtly nodded their heads with
apparent approval. Jeff told me it wasn't the best timing to add
someone to their staff, but he would talk to Sam to discuss
options. Before I knew it, Jeff shook my hand, thanked me for
coming and walked out of the room. Sam followed him and asked me to
wait there for a few minutes. When Sam came back into his office,
he said he thought our meeting went well, and he was optimistic. He
said, "I think this is going to work." I hopped into another cab
and headed back to LAX Airport to catch a flight to Milwaukee,
where my parents lived.
Once I got to my parent's house, I was waiting to hear from Sam.
I probably should have looked for other jobs instead of putting all
of my eggs in one basket. However, I knew that I wanted to work for
Excel. So I waited, and then I waited some more. The more time
passed, the more antsy and impatient I became. Eventually, I called
Sam to check-in.
He told me that he thought something would happen, but he was
still trying to push the idea through with Jeff. So I continued to
wait for what felt like many more weeks. I was going crazy, as I
was so bored and anxious to start my career. I spent a lot of time
at the gym lifting weights, binge-watched the entire series of the
TV show "Lost" with my mom and pretty much just twiddled my thumbs
waiting for the call.
Finally, Sam called. He said, "Alright, we're good to go. I'll
book you a flight. You start Monday."
And that's how "My Past Life as a Sports Agent" really
Read the last entry of this
series: "My past life as a sports agent: Ciao means hello and
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on
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