Hannah Kiddoo 2015-09-30 02:07:56
Head in the Game A Stafford attorney helps athletes navigate the world of professional sports. Deborah Crain’s days start early and end late with email; if it’s 6 a.m. at her home near Houston, it’s 2 p.m. in Bahrain, and she wants to respond to requests from international coaches and general managers as quickly as possible. In addition to being a business and tax attorney, Crain is a licensed NBA agent and heads her own business, Kingdom Works Sports Agency. Her clients—currently six athletes who have competed in the National Basketball Association Development League and in overseas clubs—depend on her to negotiate contracts and business deals, steer them away from unscrupulous offers, and plan for life after retirement. Juggling two careers takes effort—she describes her routine as “law by day, basketball by night and early morning”—but Crain, a former high school state volleyball champ and sports junkie, is living her dream. When Crain entered law school at Louisiana State University in 1999, she was intent on practicing sports law. After graduation, however, she landed at a private practice focused on business, insurance, and tax matters, and the plan began to fade. In 2009, following the loss of her father and post Hurricane Gustav, Crain relocated to Texas to open her own business and tax law firm. Connecting with new clients, including retired NBA players, resurrected her desire to work with athletes. Four years later, she was licensed as an NBA agent. You grew up around athletics. What does that background mean in your work as an agent? I tell my business clients: If you are passionate about what you do, you will be great. My dad, as a coach, taught me to push harder than anyone else. If you want to be great, you must work harder, fight more, and be determined to accomplish your goal, regardless of what the obstacles are. The athletes who I represent have the same philosophy. Why did you decide to represent NBA players? I specifically chose the NBA because of my relationship with a retired player and my love for the sport. In addition to my NBA license, I have my FIBA license, which is the international counterpart of basketball. Many retired NBA players will continue to play overseas. One of my players, Jacob Holmen, just finished his season with the Goldfields Giants in Australia, where the team went all the way to their version of the final four. Another one of my players, Quinton Doggett, a former NBA D-League player, will be playing in Bahrain this fall. What are the steps to becoming licensed? For the NBA, you need to have a four-year degree or sufficient negotiating experience. You must also meet several other requirements, including moral fitness, and pay their fees. If you are interested in becoming an agent, make sure you determine what specific rules govern that sport before you attempt to represent any players. How do you find clients? Having a sports agency is like having a talent agency. You spend a considerable amount of time going through biographies to determine which players fit. I wish we could represent them all; however, if you are going to do a good job, you must only select players that you can fully commit to and likewise are committed to you. It is better to develop your reputation as someone who will do a good job for the ones you have rather than having a long list of those you do nothing for. You have an almost familial bond with the players that you represent. Can you share an example? Last year, Quinton and I traveled around to different tryouts. We had an opportunity to spend a lot of time getting to know one another. When he had a tryout with the Rockets, he stayed at my house for a few days. He proceeded to shoot some hoops in the front yard with my children. Within 15 minutes, just about every kid on my street was out there with him. It was awesome. What do you enjoy most about working as an agent? I love the relationships I have with my players and seeing their dreams come true. My family and I went to watch Ta’Quan Zimmerman, a client of mine and the point guard for the Idaho Stampede (D-League), play in Austin. I cannot even begin to express my joy seeing him sink his three-point shot, run the offense, and read the defense to execute effective plays. I felt like, that’s my boy out there. How does being an agent impact your law practice? There are seasons in sports when the agency gets more active, and I do not take on more business litigation than I can effectively handle during that time. You have to practice the art of saying no. It is better to turn a potential client down than to promise to do the work and either not do it or not do a very good job of it. You must know your limits.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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