In what feels like an incredibly quick turnaround, Jay Z has gone from the very public face of the Brooklyn Nets, courtside for most games alongside wife Beyonce, counted on to lure free agent after free agent to a team and arena he owned shares in, to completely dissolved with the team in full. The rapper, with plans to become a sports agent, was forced to disassociate with the team in order to chase down his sports representation dream, selling both his shares in the squad to new coach Jason Kidd, and shares in the burgeoning Barclays Center to unknown investors.
Jay’s checkered past taught him a few things that he says will come in handy in his new role as a sports agent: “I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer,” he tells Robinson. “To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up.
Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash—those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you’re going to get locked up or you’re going to die.”
Part of this may be true, but it’s going to come off as flippant to some and damning to others that have no idea what it’s like to attempt “to get out of [that] life.”
Jay Z’s current clientele includes Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Skylar Diggins of the Tulsa Shock amongst his basketball portfolio, the New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano, with Victor Cruz and Geno Smith representing the NFL arm. It’s a sound core, a group that will be probably properly represented by Jay Z the Very Good Businessman, and not Jay Z the Former Drug Dealer That Knows How to Budget.
Take a look at what he did with the Nets. Jay Z snuck in the backdoor as a team owner with a majority owner in Mikhail Prokhorov that was desperately attempting to develop some credibility amongst both youth and New York City’s elite in the purgatory years between his purchase of the Nets, and their move to Brooklyn in 2012. The rapper was able to enhance his own credibility along the way, ingratiating himself in the sports world in ways that went well beyond hearing players list Jay Z as their favorite rapper, while making a little scratch on the side as well.
I’ll let Nate Jones and Myles Brown, in watching Jay Z take in mild criticism for having to sell his shares of the Barclays Center, explain it:
So Jay spent few hundred thousand, sold out eight shows, got Rocawear in the arena, flipped it to Roc Sports and somehow yall think he lost?
— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) September 18, 2013
@mdotbrown Elevated his brand overall. Not just in sports. Didn't lose in any respect with that deal. Chump change investment, huge returns.
— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) September 18, 2013
The man who was sitting courtside in East Rutherford, watching a lottery team a few years ago … that man wasn’t going to be able to represent Kevin Durant’s upcoming maximum NBA contracts, and endless loop of endorsement opportunities. Jay Z didn’t scam the Nets, but he sure did well in getting the best he could out of their brief partnership.
That is going to carry over into his time as a sports agent. I’m sure the shrewdness (and cynicism, and quick-thinking and fear of a deal gone terribly wrong) developed during his time in the drug hustle will help, but this is someone who has shown formidable chops on the right side of the law.
Though some of the more cutthroat sports agents out there will tell you that an appreciation for both sides of that world goes a long way. We’ll see.
In the meantime, future NBA agents? Keep your nose clean, and don’t try this at home.