My name is Zak Romanoff and I will be contributing a weekly column, "Lessons for Athletes". The primary purpose of the column is to give athletes tips and guidance to enhance their career development. This column will include quotes from athletes from various sports, my commentary, and a lesson for athletes. For the first column, we have 3 quotes from NBA players, as we gear up for the much anticipated 2010-2011 season kicking off tonight.
(1) Hedo Turkoglu — Leaving Toronto & Returning
"People have to realize it's not always the players. People just got to see what's really going on and make a judgment after that. I'm not a random guy. Chris Bosh was an All-Star. Other guys, All-Stars, too. You have to ask them what was the reason that they left."
We know players aren't lining up to play in Toronto. But why remind Raptor officials about that one more time? You think they don't already know that? The truth is Turk got his wish—a one-way ticket out of Toronto after only 1 season. His contract was for 5 years and $53 million. I know a lot of players who would sacrifice and take that deal even if it was in Toronto. He could have been stuck there for another 4 seasons if the Raptors didn't trade him. He should celebrate that and let the other players speak for themselves.
It's not usually a wise thing to take shots at the one who used to sign your paycheck, especially in a highly visible setting like the NBA. You never know what can happen down the road. I know Turk is good in Phoenix right now. Let's say we are three years down the road, Turk is getting older, and Phoenix doesn't want him anyone. Turk is desperately looking for a new team, and Toronto is the only team that needs a sharp shooting SF. Why eliminate that opportunity because of these comments?
If my client were traded from his past team, I would tell him to say positive things about the city publicly, and thank them for his time there. Smile and tell the media about the good times. Then when we were alone, I would tell him to say all the negative feelings about the team to me, and I would console him.
An agent is constantly marketing his client's skills, character, and ability to be coached. We live in a society where people are trying to stir things up in the pot. One can't be as candid in the interviews as they may want to be. You've got to be careful not to step on a landmine. Play basketball, collect that big check, and smile as you go on your way.
Lesson for Athletes: Try to stay on good terms with previous clubs (and businesses) even if you aren't thrilled with them. You just never know when you might need them again.
(2) Carmelo Anthony — Trade Speculation & The Professional Way In Which He's Been Handling it
"I have my reasons why I am keeping my options open. People that really know basketball, know the sport and know the business of basketball, understand and know why I'd be keeping my options open."
Source: [Nuggets’ Anthony staying patient – for now]
It's clear Melo doesn't want to be in Denver. He hasn't signed the 3-year, $65 million extension from Denver, and we heard about the two failed trade attempts to New York and New Jersey. This unfortunately is the ugly part of basketball that rears its head whenever contract time comes up. It is also why agents are necessary. The negotiations between millionaire players and billionaire owners do not sit well with the public or players themselves. Players' feelings get hurt when they hear what teams think they are really worth. Teams try to low-ball players, and the agent's job is to stick up for their clients. It's best to let your agent work it out.
Melo's agent, Leon Rose (CAA), is probably working five or six teams right now, and trying to get one GM to make a move which will put this whole thing in motion. As a player, one should understand that Melo is currently auditioning in front of the whole league for a job. Everyone knows he is an elite talent, but he is being watched right now more than ever before in his career. That is probably the biggest reason why you saw him leading the league in scoring during the pre-season.
If he continues with his best behavior during this time, he will hit it big and claim security for the prime of his playing career...ON A TEAM THAT HE LOVES.
As an agent, I see that Melo is making Rose's life much easier by not feeding the media with extra comments. He is allowing Rose to go to work and try and make something happen. The last thing Rose needs to be doing now is answering questions about Melo's comments from a practice. It's unnecessary. Melo should be applauded, and I believe he will get what he wants (Knicks) since he is playing the game correctly.
While he will start the season with the Nuggets, how long he stays still remains uncertain. The Nuggets have until the February trade deadline to deal Anthony or risk losing him through free agency next summer, when he would be the headliner of the 2011 class.
Lesson for Athletes: Trust your agent to represent you in negotiations. That is what he is there for. He will support you more than the team will.
(3) Kobe Bryant — Comparisons to Jordan & His Work Ethic
"I've always been comfortable as a kid growing up to think that when my career is over, I want them to think of me as an overachiever despite the talent that I have. To think of me as a person that's overachieved, that would mean a lot to me. That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could."
Source: [For Bryant, it’s all about the chase]
Through the eyes of the public, it is better to be viewed as an overachiever than just being blessed with more talent then everybody else. Look at Derek Jeter and A-Rod. Who is loved more in NY?
Kobe used to love the spotlight, perhaps a tad too much. Too many controversial comments. Remember all the back and forth with Shaq? That is an agent's nightmare.
Now you can tell that Kobe just wants to let his play do the talking. He's been through a lot. The nation was stunned when the Lakers traded away the most dominant big man of our generation because they had Kobe to lead the team. A lot of people thought the Lakers would never reach the top level with Kobe as their best player. People blamed Kobe for Shaq leaving, even though it wasn't his decision (although he may have told the front office he would be okay if Shaq left).
Kobe also had the collapse in '03 when the sexual assault case took place during the season, and a lot of people forgot about him. Sponsors dropped him and he wasn't marketable anymore. He was cold and his career looked unsalvageable. However, he came back to the top with three straight trips to the NBA Finals in '08, '09, '10, and two rings. America loves a comeback, and Kobe has completed his.
These days a lot of athletes root for themselves instead of the success of the team. Kobe pushes his teammates and himself to the limit. He is now an ideal star player, one that corporations look to align theirselves with and endorse. It took Bryant a journey to get back here, but now he is focused. And more business opportunities should come.
He is so smooth now, that even MJ took a shot at him! MJ said Kobe was "on the list somewhere" of the Top 10 Guards of All-Time. But let's be serious—Bryant is #1 or #2 (or will be by the time he retires). If you disagree, go ahead and post your argument!
Sometimes, athletes are quick to blow their own horn. Not here. Kobe is an overachiever. Remember, he wasn't a top 1, 2 or even 3 pick when he came out of high school. He was drafted #13 by the Hornets in '96. He needed to work, he wasn't a physically imposing player like Jordan in the '80s and '90s or like LeBron is today.
Kobe's agent can now go and get endorsements more easily because Kobe isn't giving the public reasons to hate him. Kobe cares about the game. He cares about being called the greatest player of all time when his career is over.
Lesson for Athletes: The public almost always roots for the underdog. Being humble is an important quality to have. Staying under the radar with the media is good. When you are great, other people will take shots at you. When this happens, I say catch their bricks and store them underneath you, building a strong foundation to further cement your way to greatness.
Zak Romanoff is a FIBA-licensed agent and owner of Romanoff Sports Management.