SBJ/June 6-12, 2011/Labor and Agents

Unusual courtship, interview win over Irving for Wechsler

Liz Mullen
Last fall, NBA agent Jeffrey Wechsler got a call from an old friend.

“He called and said, ‘I have a friend who has a son who is going to be a very good ballplayer,” Wechsler said recently, recounting the story. “He didn’t tell me who this person was.”

The friend told Wechsler that his friend was coming in a few weeks to the Miami area, where Wechsler is based, and asked if Wechsler would meet with him. “I said, ‘You have to tell me who it is so I can be prepared,’” Wechsler related.

It was Drederick Irving, father of Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving.

NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Kyrie Irving, a potential No. 1 pick, chose Jeffrey Wechsler’s 24/7 Sports Management.
Wechsler’s company ultimately signed Irving, who may be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft. Irving is the projected No. 1 pick by DraftExpress.com and No. 2 by NBADraft.net, which projects Arizona forward Derrick Williams No. 1.

Wechsler’s friend, whom he declined to name, played basketball with the elder Irving at Boston University years ago.
When Drederick Irving came to Wechsler’s house in Miami, he asked him if he could have something to drink. Wechsler refused. “I said, ‘I can’t give you a drink. If I give you a drink, your son will lose his eligibility.”

They talked. Drederick Irving told Wechsler not to call him. “He said, ‘Everyone is calling me, and you will be better off not calling me.’”

Wechsler didn’t call.

After the college basketball season was over, Wechsler was one of four or five firms the Irvings interviewed. His pitch was not about the great contracts he’s done but about something entirely different.

Wechsler invited the chairman of a publicly traded company to talk to Irving about how to save money. Not how to spend it or invest it, but how to save it. Wechsler declined to name the business executive.

Then, he said, he invited in Anthony Shriver, son of Sargent Shriver and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and founder of Best Buddies International, who talked to the Irvings about giving back. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a spokesman for Best Buddies in football, and Shriver told Kyrie he wanted him also to be a spokesman for the charity, which benefits people with intellectual disabilities.

“I wanted to put them in front of people who could impact Kyrie’s life,” Wechsler said.

Kyrie Irving selected Wechsler.

The signing was a bit of a surprise in NBA circles, as Wechsler is not a big-name NBA player agent and his name may not be well-known outside the athlete rep business. Wechsler, however, has been representing players since the late 1990s and formerly worked for the biggest NBA agent of all time, David Falk, at his old company, FAME, and then at SFX Sports.

Wechsler left SFX several years ago and started his own firm, 24/7 Sports Management. Among the agency’s clients are Orlando forward Quentin Richardson and Charlotte forward D.J. White.

Wechsler said he doesn’t recruit, employ runners or get involved in AAU basketball programs, noting that the business of signing top basketball players has turned into a “terrible, terrible environment.” But, he added, “If I can get my foot in the door in a clean situation, I am going to get a guy.”

CAA SIGNS NBA PROSPECTS: CAA Sports has signed projected NBA draft lottery picks Jonas Valanciunas, a center from Lithuania, and University of Texas forward Tristan Thompson. CAA also signed University of Tennessee forward Tobias Harris, Texas guard Cory Joseph and Oakland University center Keith Benson. Valanciunas is projected as the No. 8 pick by NBADraft.net, with Thompson No. 13, Harris No. 18, Joseph No. 42 and Benson No. 45.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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