Friend of the Court
Sports agent Erik Kabe (JD ’14) helps NBA players maximize their potential
On one of Erik Kabe’s first dates with a woman he liked, his phone rang. He took the call outside—and didn’t return for 30 minutes. Such is the life of a sports agent. (Thankfully, the woman was understanding; the couple is now engaged.)
Kabe (JD ’14), an agent with BDA Sports Management, represents NBA players Josh Richardson (San Antonio Spurs) and Grant Williams (Boston Celtics), among others. His career is rewarding but demanding, incorporating elements of being a coach, scout, publicist, mentor, parental figure, and friend.
A Los Angeles native, Kabe majored in political science at UC Irvine and graduated into the 2008 recession. He secured an internship at BDA, earning minimum wage while fetching coffee and faxes and generally making himself useful.
It’s notoriously difficult to become an NBA agent; there are more agents than players. To keep his career options open, Kabe enrolled at Loyola University Chicago School of Law while continuing to work for BDA.
The gamble paid off.
Here, Kabe offers a candid assessment of his career thus far.
On being an agent
The primary point of an agent is to maximize your player’s earnings. If you think about the two overarching things that make up a professional athlete, it’s on-the-court performance and off-the-court marketing. But everything starts and stops on the court. If your player’s performance suffers, nothing else comes into play.
A lot of these guys are 18, 19. They’re coming out of college and entering this highly competitive realm. So we’re very focused on performance: professional-level training, nutrition, sports psychologists. We try to get them to wear sleep trackers—if you don’t sleep well, you don’t perform well.
You have to negotiate contracts. By far, that’s the most important part of the job. There’s also networking with general managers, assistant GMs, scouts. You’re talking to your player’s parents all the time—at least as often as you talk to your player. They’re part of the journey, too.
On doing whatever it takes
After I graduated from Loyola, I wanted to give the sports agent thing a real try. I was watching basketball nonstop, going to NBA events, networking with scouts. Josh Richardson at Tennessee caught my eye. My network wasn’t very large then, so I sent a cold email. Josh’s dad called me about a month later.
At the end of the college season, I was flying to Oklahoma City to see the Richardsons. The night before, every flight from Chicago to OKC was canceled because of tornadoes. I immediately booked a red-eye to Dallas. I got a rental car at 2 a.m. It’s sleeting. It’s dark. I don’t know what I would have done without GPS. But I was determined to get there. I picked up my mentor, Bill Duffy, from the airport after getting maybe two hours of sleep. We drive to the Richardsons’ house, and Josh’s dad says, “Man, you look horrible.” So I told him the story. And it clicked. A few days later, Josh signed.