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Veteran NBA agent Todd Ramasar took some time to talk NILs, NCAA certification, the Knicks and Leon Rose, recently.
Ramasar, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Life Sports Agency, explains below why he believes Rose and his group can bring top talent to New York.
The Q&A below has been lightly edited for length.
WHEN A FORMER AGENT TAKES ON A TEAM PRESIDENT JOB LIKE LEON ROSE WITH THE KNICKS, WHAT IS THAT DYNAMIC LIKE FOR YOU? WHAT'S IT LIKE NEGOTIATING WITH A FORMER AGENT?
RAMASAR: That’s a very interesting question. Early on in my career, I worked with (Warriors GM) Bob Myers and (top Lakers exec) Rob Pelinka. I think it’s an advantage for (team executives who worked previously as player agents). As far as me negotiating against them, I like it because they’ve sat in both seats. They’re going to be sensitive, empathetic towards me as an agent. Whether they acknowledge it or not, they know what it is to be an agent, to advise a client and to understand the circumstances agents face when negotiating with a team.
They are also going to come from the perspective of their (current) position: they’ve been employed to help build a championship roster. But having that experience (of an agent) and understanding the decisions that need to be made (is an advantage for a team executive). A lot of front office (personnel) can’t speak to that…. For those who have sat in both (seats), it can lead to a greater understanding (of the business).
ANOTHER KNICKS-RELATED QUESTION: ONE OF YOUR CLIENTS, BARON DAVIS, WAS ON ONE OF THE FEW KNICKS PLAYOFF TEAMS IN RECENT MEMORY. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT BARON’S STINT IN NEW YORK?
RAMASAR: It was a special time because Glen (Grunwald) and Donnie (Walsh) were there and I thought they were moving in a great direction, similar to the way they’re moving now. Baron’s a showman so … he understood the magnitude of putting on a Knicks jersey and wanting to win for Knicks fans. But again, I see that direction, that identity (of the 2012 team) in the current team. They’ve been fun to watch. Obviously, (Tom Thibodeau) there, Leon and Wes (William Wesley), Scott (Perry) and those guys.
Going back to your previous question about Leon being an agent, he’s going to understand players because he’s had to represent them all these years. His ability to communicate with them and understand them is what I think is going to help draw that superstar to the Knicks in the near future. I don’t say that taking away from the current roster, either. (I’m talking about) the best of the best, your one percent of the one percent (of players). (Rose’s ability to understand star players) will help.
YOU REPRESENTED ONE OF THE BIGGEST RISERS IN THE 2021 DRAFT, JOSH PRIMO. AT WHAT POINT DID YOU GET THE SENSE THAT NBA TEAMS SAW HIM IN THE PLACE WHERE HE ENDED UP (12th overall)?
RAMASAR: It's one of those things where the draft process is fluid; it’s a market. I saw (Primo) as a lottery talent, so (where he was ultimately drafted) didn’t surprise me. But as far as teams realizing, ‘Hey, he’s a lottery talent a year earlier than we’d anticipated,' I would say it was post-combine.
AFTER THE COMBINE, DOES THE DYNAMIC CHANGE FOR YOU IN TERMS OF PRE-DRAFT WORKOUTS AND YOUR PRE-DRAFT APPROACH WITH JOSH?
RAMASAR: It's a balance of not getting carried away with the momentum of his performance at the combine and all of the information immediately after the combine. He still worked out for a lot of teams after the combine. I was curating the process in real time, coordinating and confirming teams. In some cases, prioritizing certain teams over others. Cancelling some workouts, adding teams. Obviously, I wanted him drafted as high as possible but I also wanted him drafted by the right organization because he was the youngest player in the draft; he’s the youngest player in the NBA. And we’re fortunate that he was drafted by the Spurs. (Where a player gets drafted) is a major part of a player’s development and future performance.
Winning is contagious the same way losing is. People learn through osmosis. For an 18-year-old, going to an organization like that with the veterans they have around, obviously coach (Gregg) Popovich, (top basketball executive) R.C. Buford in the front office, former players like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili around, it couldn’t be a better fit.
YOU ARE ONE OF THE AGENTS WHO IS CERTIFIED BY THE NCAA. HOW HAS THAT CHANGED YOUR APPROACH?
RAMASAR: It's helped me because I took advantage of that opportunity to do so. Other individuals in the industry may have been reluctant to get certified by the NCAA for a number of reasons. For me, it (was) an opportunity to build a closer relationship with the NCAA…. I was looking at that as an opportunity for the future. And I was also looking at (NCAA certification) as an opportunity to advise players, give them counsel as an agent, while also preserving their eligibility.
HOW DOES THE NEW NIL (https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/college-football-bowl-projections-michigan-into-new-years-six-cincinnati-must-look-like-a-playoff-team/) ELEMENT IMPACT YOUR WORLD?
RAMASAR: Significantly. I started in this business when I was 19 in 1999, when I was at UCLA on the team. And I've seen a lot in those 23 years in the NBA. I've never seen this much disruption in basketball, in my career, like I’ve seen in the last few years. What I mean by that is the Overtime League, G League Ignite, NIL, legislation getting put in place. That's not even taking into consideration the pandemic, NFTs and new technologies. There’s a lot going on. If I just took these next five years with the influx of the new media rights deal on the horizon, there’s going to be significant changes, in my opinion, on the high school level, collegiate level, as well as NBA level.
NOT ALL AGENTS PURSUED THE NCAA CERTIFICATION. WHY DID IT MAKE SENSE FOR YOU?
RAMASAR: I saw an opportunity to, to again, build a relationship with the NCAA, not just get certified. And have an opportunity to work with college athletes and preserve their eligibility. It also gave me the ability to grow closer to some individuals and executives at the NCAA and sit on some artificial committees as the NIL was gaining momentum. It allowed me to give feedback (on the process) from an agent's perspective and also as a former student athlete. I'm grateful that I did it. It presented some really good opportunities and I've gained some great relationships from it.
YOU REFERENCED A NEW MEDIA RIGHTS DEAL EARLIER. THAT’S SOMETHING THAT COULD BE ON THE HORIZON. HOW MIGHT THAT IMPACT THE GAME?
RAMASAR: It's a great thing for all sides involved. It was great in 2016, and it will be even better now. I think from that experience in 2016, all the powers that (be learned a lot). It’s now a matter of understanding the impact of the influx of that much cash and figuring out what's in the best interests of the league, the union, and its players. Because it’s going to increase player contracts significantly, whether the union and league decide that they want smoothing or if they embrace all that capital at once like they did years ago.
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE AN ADJUSTMENT IN THE NEW CBA TO ADDRESS PLAYERS EARLY IN THEIR CONTRACTS FORCING A TRADE?
RAMASAR: Yeah, I do think there will be. Without getting into specifics, (I think it will be) similar to how the NBA probably adjusted fines for owners as it relates to tampering. We see the level of team valuations increase significantly and owners’ net worth increase significantly to where the fine (for tampering) hadn’t been adjusted; (It isn't) significant anymore. They were maybe substantial to everyday people but to some of these owners, (the fine) wasn’t that significant. So I'm sure that's going to be a topic of discussion.
I think the bigger topic is it's bad for the league and players when things get out of hand because it turns off fans. You’re going to have employees – players in this case – that are unhappy with their circumstances and they should have the right to be able to move or get traded... If (teams are) in position to win a championship, or they've invested into a player, they have rights too. But when these situations take a public stage and it carries on for an extended period of time, it’s bad for everybody. So you hope that these situations get handled behind closed doors.