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Winderman: Why agents are pushing overseas options

Aug 17, 2011, 2:31 PM EDT

NBA London 2011 -  New Jersey Nets v Toronto Raptors Getty Images

The flights are mostly one way, west to east. Everyone seemingly is going to Europe or beyond, amid the lockout.

We appreciate the incentive for the players, the opportunity to stay sharp, find competition, earn a few pennies on their typical NBA dollars.

But they are not alone in this process.

It also is one driven by agents, who also need to continue the cash flow.

So how does it work for them?

He’s how, according to a couple of agents well-versed in the process:

Foremost, unlike NBA deals, where the agent cut is limited to four percent, agents typically claim 10 percent on overseas deals. At times, that percentage is split with an overseas agent.

“The agent fee is 10 percent, paid by the team, not paid by the player,” one agent said, requesting anonymity due to ongoing contentiousness in the process. “So if a player goes over and now he’s getting $100,000, there’s an agent fee of $10,000 that the team pays. Now, sometimes, that gets broken up, there’s a broker overseas, without even getting back into kickbacks.”

The agent, though, did get into kickbacks, noting it is not out of the question for an agent to request a 15-percent fee, so he still winds up with the 10 percent after paying off his overseas associate.

Another agent, who deals with mostly secondary-level talent, said the contracts signed by the players are for the full amount offered, unlike in the NBA, where agent and other fees are then removed.

“If it’s a $200,000 contract, he’s netting $200,000 in cash,” he said. “The team is paying the tax on that. So he’s getting $200,000 in cash. The agent is getting $20,000.”

Of course, that’s if the players or the agent get anything, based on some of the sketchy payment practices overseas.

“Stupid people like me wait and sometimes the player doesn’t get his money and therefore I don’t get my money,” said the agent who represents secondary-talent players. “So it can happen.”

Because of that, there has been a push among agents to receive payment up front for those headed overseas amid the lockout.

“Well, let’s use a practical example, Deron Williams,” the agent who represents high-end talent said. “OK, so he’s making, let’s probably say $500,000 U.S. a month. You’re getting at least three months out of him if the lockout continues, that $1.5 million. So you might ask for $150,000 up front, sure.”

Both agents said they would be reluctant sending players assured of significant future NBA earnings overseas, even if it meant lost fees.

“Obviously,” the high-end agent said, “I’m going to have issues if I don’t make any money here. But the fact is here I’ve got a fiduciary obligation, I can’t advise somebody the wrong way.”

Said the agent who represents second-tier talent, “The thing that’s just fascinating to me is the first guy that’s injured, whoever goes, it’ll be interesting to see what happens.”

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

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