Moments after leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title in franchise history, Kawhi Leonard quickly faced the impending reality of his uncertain future. In the midst of accepting his second Finals MVP Trophy, Kawhi was asked by ESPN’s Doris Burke what NBA fans across the country were presumably thinking, “How does this championship shape what you have in front of you?” This seemingly unfair inquiry during a championship celebration can only be explained by two words: Free Agency.
When LeBron James announced his decision to “take his talents to South Beach” on national television nine years ago, early July during the NBA offseason became a phenomenon. Since then, members of the media and basketball fans alike have become obsessed with speculating over a player’s future destination following the expiration of his current contract.
The anticipation leading up to this summer’s free-agent frenzy was as strong as ever, with many of the NBA’s biggest stars preparing to enter the free agent market. The list included Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, and several other prominent players. With the trend of NBA player mobility persisting, free agents continue to take advantage of their freedom to play in whichever city they desire, while earning extremely profitable contracts.
When the NBA reached a nine-year, $24-billion television deal with TNT in 2014, the league’s yearly revenue skyrocketed. As a result, the NBA salary cap has experienced significant growth. During the 2013-2014 NBA season, the league’s cap was set at $63,065,000. Today, the 2019-2020 NBA salary cap figure is $109,140,000, much to the delight of the players. As we experience what has been referred to as the new “Golden Age of the NBA”, the agents negotiating these deals are also reaping profound benefits with the influx of this new revenue.
On June 12, just 18 days before the start of the NBA’s free agency period, Kyrie Irving announced that he was parting ways with his longtime agent Jeff Wechsler, in favor of Jay Z’s full-service entertainment company, Roc Nation. As reports of Kyrie’s intentions to sign with the Brooklyn Nets became public, his decision to partner with the former Nets part-owner began to make a lot of sense. Signing with Roc Nation and the billionaire rapper/businessman will undoubtably create opportunities to expand Irving’s personal brand during his tenure in New York City; the mecca of basketball.
Sure enough, on June 30, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Nets get Kyrie Irving, who officially signed a four-year, $114 million maximum contract with the Brooklyn Nets. What becomes lost in the story, however, is how the transpiration of this process impacted Kyrie’s former agent. Signing a massive deal not only rewards the player for his exceptional on-court performance but also significantly impacts the life of the player’s agent. NBA agents typically earn a four percent commission on their client’s salary in exchange for the array of services they provide to the player. Therefore, Kyrie’s decision to change representation came at the most inopportune time for Jeff Wechsler, who missed out on the lucrative earnings from the new contract. Although Kyrie’s agent switch appears to be unfair, it serves as a prime illustration of the challenges that NBA agents face. As player empowerment continues to rise in the NBA, the ultra-competitive agent business will only intensify.
Roc Nation also represents Kevin Durant, who recently signed with the Brooklyn Nets, along with Caris LeVert, Danny Green, and Josh Hart, among others.
Jeff Wechsler currently represents the Boston Celtics’ young phenom Jason Tatum, and Jonathon Isaac of the Orlando Magic.