When Michael B. Siegel was a kid, his favorite player was Charles Barkley of the 76ers, and he practiced Barkleyesque moves on the playgrounds and school gyms in suburban Philadelphia, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I thought I would play pro, I guess, but then I had about five injuries and knew I would never get there,” Siegel said.
So he pursued his NBA dream in a different way, being a sports agent. He went to law school at Villanova, interned with agents and, after graduation, got a job with the IMG Group, the firm started by Mark McCormack, who came to prominence making Arnold Palmer a star far beyond golf. A few years ago, Siegel decided to go out on his own.
Armed with a list of mostly overseas basketball players, Siegel plugged hard, trying to recruit the best collegiate players, and finally struck a chord with Tyrus Thomas in the 2006 NBA draft.
Thomas, of the Chicago Bulls, was Siegel’s “wow” factor. Thomas’ selection was the culmination of that NBA dream that Siegel, 36, has long sought to find.
While many agents tend to cluster in New York, to be close to the league and union offices, others find it to their advantage to set up shop in the Philadelphia area. Fans may focus on the athletes signed and jettisoned by the area’s sports teams (witness the recent trade of the Sixers’ Allen Iverson), but agents have enormous influence on the process.
Philadelphia has always been a decent market for agents.
The stereotype of a Philadelphia sports agent is not the maniacal “show me the money” figure Tom Cruise played in the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire.
“If there is a vision of a Philadelphia agent, it may be like the town views itself, blue-collar, hard-working, not like the guys in South Florida who are flashy and it is all about them,” said Mike Friedman, 31, a Philadelphia lawyer who has had a few minor-league clients in basketball and football.
He played football at Franklin and Marshall and, while going to law school at Villanova, interned under sports agents to learn the business. “That’s how I view myself. You work hard for the guys you have, no matter who they are, and maybe they will hit it big or will say good things about you to someone who might.”