The phone rings while Chris Patrick gets his kids ready for school. The phone rings again during the day while Patrick tries to catch up on the latest in the NBA. The phone still rings while the former Division III Keuka College basketball player puts his kids to bed.
This is the life of an NBA agent.
Patrick, a veteran player representative since he was in law school, earned his stripes as an agent for Relativity Sports. With some current players under his purview, some of his clients include Ty Lawson, Royce White, Jason Terry, and Jordan Hamilton. Four years ago, Patrick became the managing partner of The Sports Law Group, a firm who provides representation and legal counsel for athletes, coaches, professional teams and schools.
We sat down with Patrick to discuss the challenges in athlete representation in 2020, the “Rich Paul rule” and how the draft process works for players on the fringe.
TSFJ: What’s the day in the life of an agent?
Chris Patrick: Calls, calls, calls! And watching games. I start my day by taking my kids to school, then put my Bluetooth on and get to work. First with clients and teams overseas, then getting stateside calls made. After the kids go to bed, there is usually a basketball game on TV.
TSFJ: Megastars like Jay-Z are now in representation with groups such as Roc Nation Sports. The “Rich Paul Rule” is a thing, requiring NBA agents to have a college degree. Kawhi Leonard and Lamar Jackson are represented by family members. How do you compete?
CP: Short answer, I don’t. First, my main responsibility is to my current clients, so I don’t spend too much time recruiting. Second, every agent has its niche. If a player wants to be part of an entertainment company, I’m not your guy. I want my guys to know that they are a priority for me.
The reality is that the average NBA career lasts 4 years. Players must understand that there will be bumps in the road -- not everything will work out perfectly -- but that my goal is to always put them in the best situation to build their career.
TSFJ: Can you tell me about any specific contract negotiations you are prouder of than others?
CP: Damyean Dotson of the New York Knicks, a mid-major wing from the Houston Cougars, was not projected to get drafted yet was selected No. 44 in 2017. Because of our negotiations, he was the highest-paid player drafted in the second round and made the same money as Tyler Lydon, who was drafted No. 24 out of Syracuse by the Utah Jazz.
Garrison Mathews, the Washington Wizards rookie who dropped 28 points to beat the Miami Heat in December, was another mid-major player from Lipscomb. Everyone said he wouldn’t make it to the NBA, but he dominated his pre-draft workouts and we negotiated several offers as an undrafted free agent until he signed with the Wizards. Eric Moreland was an undrafted free agent who played five years in the NBA.
These are the stories that I am the proudest about and really hang my hat on.
TSFJ: So how does the draft process work for a player like that?
CP: When Eric Moreland came out of Oregon State in 2014, I knew he had what it took to be an NBA player, despite not being on a mock draft. He was 6’10, athletic and had natural defensive instincts. For his draft workouts, I targeted three big guys that had a lot of buzz: Clint Capela, Noah Vonleh and Adriean Payne.
I knew Eric could compete with those guys, so I only scheduled workouts where he could compete against them. If Eric dominated a workout against other players that were not projected to get drafted, his stock wasn’t going to rise. However, if he played well against first-round prospects, which he did, teams would be impressed.
The Sacramento Kings called and said they did not have a second-round pick but wanted to treat Eric like one. We ended up signing a multi-year deal, and the rest is history.
TSFJ: After a player signs, many become concerned with self-branding and self-marketing. How do businesses like yours help?
CP: The truth is that 99% of a player’s money comes from their on-court contract. Unless you’re LeBron James or a highly-touted prospect, an agent promising these deals is simply unrealistic.
When I was at Relativity, Dwight Howard was one of our clients. His marketing deals paid $50-$100K, which is great. However, Howard was making $20 million that season, and it was less than half of a percent of his total compensation. An average NBA player may get a few thousand dollars to do a tweet or make an appearance. To me, this doesn’t make a lot of sense to stress over.
The time a player spends in the NBA usually leads to business opportunities that can generate lifelong revenue. Most players are done playing by their early 30s, and our goal is to ensure their basketball income lasts long after retirement as successful business owners.
TSFJ: You’ve navigated some unique opportunities and found success. What makes you so confident?
CP: My confidence comes from the mentoring I received as an agent early in my career, as well as my basketball background as a player. I worked under two prominent basketball agents, Dan Fegan and Happy Walters. I also have my eye for talent, as I played college basketball and spent four years of coaching. I know about the game and I can negotiate deals. I evaluate players from a coaching mindset. Where do they fit? How can I maximize their talents?
I absolutely love the game. I still play basketball a few times a week, it’s fun. That’s why I’m confident.
The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things, and see there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.