NBA Agent to the Stars, Leon Rose, Shares Strategies of Success with Yeshiva University Students
On March 7, members of Yeshiva University’s Sports Management Club had the opportunity to ask their biggest questions to someone who knows a little about the business.
That would be Leon Rose, attorney and sports agent, who represents National Basketball Association stars including Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, and formerly LeBron James. During the informal discussion on YU’s Wilf Campus, which was attended by dozens of students and community members, as well as visiting participants of the Annual Red Sarachek Invitational Basketball Tournament, Rose recalled his journey from aspiring basketball coach to legal professional and, eventually, adviser to some of the biggest names in the game.
“The reason I got into this is the same reason I wanted to be a basketball coach—I wanted to help people in a different way,” he said. “In my field, you may not be a coach on the court, but hopefully you’re a coach regarding life and business.”
Rose played and coached basketball at both the high school and college level and initially dreamed of becoming an NBA coach. But he decided to pursue a legal education at Temple University as well, following the advice of his father—also an attorney—who felt it provided more financial security. After graduation, Rose continued to coach teams while working for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. As an attorney with the law practice of Sherman Silverstein Kohl Rose and Podolsky in 1994, Rose met Bill Simmons, the uncle—and agent—of NBA player Lionel Simmons, who needed a lawyer to help him negotiate a contract. “That was the first time I ever got involved in this process and thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity for me to bring together my passion for basketball with my legal education,’” Rose said.
After several unsuccessful attempts to get started on his own, Rose had almost given up on the idea when a coach recommended him to NBA-hopeful Chris Anstey, an Australian player looking for an agent in the United States. “I got this call about a player who was seven feet tall, could run the floor and was being compared to Marcus Camby,” Rose recalled. “I looked at my phone and thought, ‘Why is this guy calling me?’”
After flying to Australia to meet Anstey, Rose agreed to represent him—and Anstey went on to become a first-round pick in the 1997 draft. After that, more players began to gravitate toward Rose, including NBA stars Allen Iverson and LeBron James. Creative Artists Agency approached Rose in 2006 to head a new basketball division, where he has been ever since.
At YU, Rose gave students an inside perspective on the day-to-day life of an agent representing major clients, hitting on everything from negotiating salaries and contracts to player endorsement deals and relationship building. He also discussed some of the more challenging aspects of his career, talking about his experience as an agent during the 2011 NBA lockout, the impact of collective bargaining and James’ free agency. “Your job as an agent is to explain the pros and cons and make sure your clients have all the information necessary to make the best possible decision for themselves,” he said. “You give them your advice and your thoughts, but ultimately they make the decision, and when you walk out of that room, you and your client are one. You support that decision.”
Max Stern, vice president of the Sy Syms School of Business-affiliated Sports Management Club, was impressed by Rose’s openness and accessibility. “For someone of his status, he’s a humble person who offers a good lesson for college students,” he said. “His message is, ‘Work hard. The luck comes afterward.’”
Gabriel Davidoff, the club’s president, felt Rose offered an important perspective to a group considering the relationship between business and sports—that of individual players. “Last semester we brought in Scott O’Neil, an executive who could speak about the team as a group, but seeing it from Rose’s view is also critical,” he said. “We want to keep the student body informed about sports management because it’s one of the fastest-growing industries out there and we want them to hear about it from the best in the field, people they can really learn from. So we went straight to the top.”
For Efraim Wakschlag, a marketing major and accounting minor hoping to pursue a career in sports marketing, the talk offered just that.
“He’s one of the top agents in the world, so to hear from someone like him about the field I want to go into is a huge deal,” he said.