Enter Curtis Polk, a financial specialist who left ProServ to become Falk's only partner. Polk jokes that if either he or Falk had to go down on an airplane, Jordan would choose Falk. Bracketed by both men at the preseason game in Miami, Jordan is asked that question. "Hmmm," Jordan says, stroking his chin. "I'd have to say David. I'm not looking to make any more money, which is his specialty. I just want to take care of what I got. That's where Curtis comes in."
Back in the basketball world, Falk bristles when it is suggested—and it often is suggested—that his relationship with Jordan unduly influences decisions he makes for other clients. Interesting conspiracy theories abound, the latest of which relates to McDaniel. It goes like this:
After the Knicks extended the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, Chicago's Scottie Pippen told Jordan that he hadn't enjoyed getting belted around by the very physical X-Man, who would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Falk, to please Jordan, did everything he could to get McDaniel out of New York. That wouldn't please Ewing, but in the Falk peeking order, Jordan is No. 1. So Falk rejected the Knicks' offer, $8.1 million for three years, and landed McDaniel a four-year, $9.6 million deal with Boston.
The contract started tongues wagging, because McDaniel will get only $6.4 million in his first three years as a Celtic. But Falk says Boston's offer was better because it will pay McDaniel $3.2 million ($1.5 million of which is guaranteed) in his fourth year, and has less deferred money. Knick president Dave Checketts says New York was willing to compromise on the issue of deferred money. Falk says New York had its chance.
How do some of the principals react to the conspiracy theory? Pippen laughs. Jordan scrunches up his face and shakes his head. Ewing says, "David's job was to get X the best contract he could, and he did." And McDaniel says, "He [Falk] is the best agent in basketball."
Adds Checketts, "What my dealings with David ultimately prove is that the only rule is that there are no rules. When he has leverage, he will do anything."
Falk doesn't necessarily disagree. Some men live for power, others for glory, others for money. Falk lives for leverage. To say that Falk, 42, is a little pushy is like saying Madonna is a little brash. "He's the classic guy that you want on your team," says Jordan. "I probably wouldn't like him if he wasn't with me. He's the Rick Mahorn of agents."
Falk rarely raises his voice during negotiations, and he absolutely hates to be hollered at. Says one general manager, "He starts out tough and sometimes obnoxious, and stays that way."
Falk has a talent, by no means unique among agents in any industry, of mulishly exaggerating his client's value, particularly when he's holding the leverage—such as when the team on the other side of the table clearly needs his client's skills. During a negotiation McDaniel suddenly becomes another Charles Barkley, berry the next Larry Bird. "Basically, David is a very biased person," says Jordan, laughing. "He has so much loyalty to the client that, honestly. I think he does believe everything he says."
But is such blind loyalty always helpful? Consider more Falkthought: Dantley is such a highly sought commodity that it makes perfect sense for him to walk away from $1.2 million with the Mavericks. (Wrong.) Jordan has such worldwide popularity that he will not be hammered by public opinion when he decides not to allow his likeness to appear on certain types of NBA and Olympic apparel. (Wrong again.)