Many kids dream of being a professional athlete when they grow up. Ask almost any basketball fan and they'll tell you they used to simulate clutch moments in their driveway or at the gym, recreating epic scenes from basketball history or making their own magic on the court.
Of course, not everyone is able to make it to the NBA. At a certain point, only the top, most-talented players will see their professional dreams realized, while the rest of us will just have to be content watching the games on television.
However, there's another option for those who want to stay close to the game while still earning a big paycheck, and that's to become an agent. It's not easy, though. In fact, being an NBA agent might be even more competitive than being a player. Of the roughly $3 billion in NBA player salary, $1.5 billion is managed by a group of ten super-agents. Let's take a look at these top 10 agents and who they manage.
Jeff Schwartz – 40 players, $362,643,515 in 2016-17 salary
Schwartz works with Excel Sports Management and represents seven of the 40 players who currently have max contracts, including LaMarcus Aldridge, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Hassan Whiteside. Schwartz can expect to add an eighth name to that list this summer, when Blake Griffin becomes an unrestricted free agent. Schwartz could also nearly field an entire All-Star squad himself – 11 of his 40 clients have "All-Star" on their resume.
Mark Bartelstein – 36 players, $201,000,477 in 2016-17 salary
Bartelstein only has one max-level contract (Bradley Beal's five-year, $127.2 million deal) and one All-Star (Gordon Hayward), but consistency is the name of his game. In addition to Beal and Hayward, Bartelstein manages four other players making at least $10 million this season: DeMarre Carroll, Jared Dudley, Jon Leuer, and Miles Plumlee.
Bill Duffy – 30 players, $184,957,718 in 2016-17 salary
A member of BDA Sports Management, Duffy has had a couple of memorable players under his belt. He was an agent for Yao Ming, helping usher in a new global era of basketball. More recently, he got Mike Conley a five-year, $152.6 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies – the largest contract ever signed in NBA history. Duffy also manages a host of All-Stars, including Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, and this year's All-Star Game MVP, Anthony Davis.
Leon Rose – 17 players, $153,558,106 in 2016-17 salary
One of Rose's top contracts has been the most controversial one in the league this season: Carmelo Anthony's five-year, $124 million deal with the Knicks. Melo still has two years left on his contract, which also includes a no-trade clause. The Knicks would love to rid themselves of Anthony and build around their young star Kristaps Porzingis, but Anthony ultimately controls his destiny. If he doesn't waive the no-trade clause, he'll stay in New York, and continue cashing checks for both himself and Rose. Other players Rose manages include Pau Gasol, Chris Paul, Victor Oladipo, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Andy Miller – 25 players, $127,770,586 in 2016-17 salary
The salary cap explosion has created a huge disparity in earnings for players who have signed new deals in the past season or two. Consider this oddball fact: Timofey Mozgov is making more money this year than two-time MVP Steph Curry. Mozgov has his agent to thank for that. Even though he averaged only 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while a member of the Cavaliers, Mozgov inked a four-year, $64 million deal with the Lakers. Miller might actually be a magician. His other clients include Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry, and the Knicks' Porzingis.
Rich Paul – 13 players, $122,367,864 in 2016-17 salary
Paul could make a very healthy living simply managing his good friend LeBron James. James has signed a series of one-year deals instead of longer max deals to squeeze the most out of the salary cap each year, and it will help push his on-court earnings to more than $400 million over the course of his career. But Paul likes to keep a diverse portfolio, so he also represents a handful of other players, including James' teammate J.R. Smith, John Wall, and Ben Simmons, who will go his entire rookie season without suiting up for a single game due to injury.
Rob Pelinka – 12 players, $104,483,642 in 2016-17 salary
Pelinka lost his highest-earning player when Kobe Bryant retired at the end of last season. Kobe alone made $25 million. Pelinka represents several current ballers, though, including James Harden, Chris Bosh, Buddy Hield, and the reigning three-point champion Eric Gordon. Pelinka may be done in the agent world for a bit, though, as he was recently named the new general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, joining new President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson in the front office.
Dan Fegan – 12 players, $104,483,642 in 2016-17 salary
Despite Fegan's best efforts, the Sacramento Kings still traded his client, DeMarcus Cousins. It's got to be especially troubling for Fegan because Cousins stood to make an additional $30 million had he re-signed in Sacramento. Fegan also helped Chandler Parsons land a four-year, $94 million max contract with the Grizzlies, a contract that looks to be a huge mistake on Memphis' part as Parsons has missed a good chunk of time recovering from multiple knee surgeries throughout his career.
Aaron Mintz – 17 players, $104,210,503 in 2016-17 salary
Mintz may have a very happy summer of 2018. His top client is Indiana's Paul George, who, if he makes an All-NBA team after next season, will be eligible to sign a designated player extension for upwards of $200 million. Like Cousins, it only happens if George stays in Indiana. If the team trades him or he re-signs elsewhere, Mintz won't get as big of a cut. Indiana is hanging onto George for the time being, but this will be something to watch as 2018 draws nearer. Mintz's other big clients are Reggie Jackson and Allen Crabbe.
Jeff Austin – 11 players, $98,795,986 in 2016-17 salary
Austin manages nearly $100 million in player salaries. He represents 11 players and four All-Stars, but only one max contract. His top players are Luol Deng, Marc Gasol, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who recently signed a four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Milwaukee Bucks. Here's how high the NBA salary cap is going to get: the Greek Freak's contract, which will eventually see him earn $27.5 million in one season, will probably end up looking like a bargain in a couple of years.