If there are too many agents in the sports world today, blame the movie Jerry Maguire, which despite its cautionary tale, hooked almost every kid who didn’t make it as a pro athlete.
It seemed to have all the nuances of the sports agent business: Agent infighting, back-handed dealing and client stealing.
But if there’s a sequel to be done, there’s a new angle that Jerry Maguire didn’t have that has now become the hardest part of being an agent today: previous relationships. When Bob Sugar and Jerry Maguire are fighting over star athlete Frank Cushman, it’s his dad that they have to get through. That’s not how it would work today.
Today, Bob and Jerry would meet Cush’s friend who is responsible for brokering Cush’s choice of agent. That person would likely ask how much of a guarantee the agent is willing to pay the athlete and how compensation would work for the broker as well.
In the 1996 movie, which is still the fifth highest grossing sports movie of all time, Jerry was constantly fighting to keep his client Rod Tidwell. But those fights were against the rest of the agent world. Today? Sure, there’s client stealing going on. But there are also the athlete's friends and relatives who get into the business and convince a star that it makes sense to go in another direction.
Witness the defection of LeBron James from his agent Aaron Goodwin years ago and Dwight Howard’s defection from Goodwin this week. On the outside, Goodwin did everything for these guys — signed blue chip brands at what seemed to be max dollars. But he couldn’t hold on against the pressure from the friends of James and Howard.
James’ team forged LRMR marketing and have become a firm that does business outside of LeBron. Will they do better than Goodwin? Maybe it's too early, but it's hard to make that argument right now. Will whatever team Howard forms be better than what Goodwin has done? Again, seems to be tough road ahead.
When Jerry Maguire came out, many agents applauded how realistic it all seemed and yet, despite showing the industry at its worst at times, it yielded a new generation full of agents.
I think if Jerry Maguire II came out, showing the brokering of clients, the guarantees and the constant fight between agent and player over his potential business relationships with his friends, somehow I think they’ll be fewer agents signing up to do the job over the next decade.
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