Sunday, July 5, 2009

The End of NBA Agents???

Stephon Marbury Uses Players' Association to represent him as Free Agent

Rick has written extensively about the benefits of players' associations retaining the capacity to negotiate contracts on behalf of individual players--meaning that players use the players' association, instead of an agent or agency, to negotiate employment contracts with teams.

Boston Celtics' free agent guard Stephon Marbury has decided to use National Basketball Players Association' deputy counsel Hal Biagas to represent him this off-season. Last season, Biagas negotiated Marbury's buyout with the Knicks (a subject discussed earlier this year at the Yale Law School Sports Litigation Panel which Biagas, Alan Milstein, and I were on).

Here is Marbury's reasoning, as told to Marc Spears of the Boston Globe:

“The best thing about the NBPA is that they work for you for free,’’ said Marbury via e-mail. “When you have a team that negotiates the Collective Bargaining Agreement for all the players representing you, there is strength in numbers.’’

Although Marbury is a rather unique personality, perhaps other players might turn to the NBPA for representation. After-all, players' have a financial incentive to do so: while an NBA agent typically receives a 4% commission on a player contract, the player can keep that money if he uses the NBPA instead. So if Marbury signs for $2 million with, say, the Washington Wizards, he'll keep the $80,000 that would have been paid to his agent; Biagas and the NBPA won't get a commission. $80,000 is not an insignificant chunk of change, even for an NBA player.

Then again, NBA agents might argue that they are in a better position to zealously represent players, since their interests are only with the player and not with the collective entity of players (i.e., the NBPA). Of course, when an agent represents more than one player, particularly multiple players on the same team, seeking the same salary cap space, a player might question the zeal behind his agent's representation.

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