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The Power and the Glory
Jack McCallum
November 09, 1992
In representing Michael Jordan and other deities, David Falk has become the scourge of the NBA
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November 09, 1992

The Power And The Glory

In representing Michael Jordan and other deities, David Falk has become the scourge of the NBA

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Falk's Folks

PLAYER/TEAM

CONTRACT YEARS/TOTAL VALUE

Danny Ferry, Cavaliers

10/$37.5 million

Patrick Ewing, Knicks

6/$36 million

Michael Jordan, Bulls

8/$26 million

John Stockton, Jazz

6/$14.1 million

Dominique Wilkins, Hawks

5/$14 million

Dikembe Mutombo, Nuggets

5/$13.8 million

Dennis Scott, Magic

5/$12 million

Johnny Daw kins, 76ers

5/$12 million

Jeff Malone, Jazz

5/$10.9 million

Buck Williams, Trail Blazers

4/$10 million

Xavier McDaniel, Celtics

4/$9.6 million

Rex Chapman, Bullets

4/$9.3 million

Stacey King, Bulls

6/$8 million

Eric (Sleepy) Floyd, Rockets

4/$6.3 million

Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues, Hornets

4/$6.2 million

Rodney McCray, Bulls

6/$5.3 million

John Paxson, Bulls

4/$5.2 million

Ken Norman, Clippers

4/$4.4 million

Rumeal Robinson, Hawks

4/$4.3 million

Armon Gilliam, 76ers

2/$4.2 million

Travis Mays, Hawks

3/$3 million

Reggie Williams, Nuggets

2/$1 million

Alonzo Mourning, Hornets

(unsigned)

David Falk looked around the dining room of Paulolugi's Restaurant, in the Coconut Grove section of Miami, with an expression that might be termed satisfied, but by his legion of detractors would assuredly be classified as suing. Not far away, Chicago Bull forward Rodney McCray was twirling pasta on his plate, and through the window Talk could see center Stacey King, that 6'11" merrymaker, holding alfresco court under the midnight stars. At an adjoining table was guard John Paxson, munching on antipasto. And down at the other end of Falk's table, alternately discussing golf, real estate, TV talk shows, radio deejays, the spectacle of female boxing and the reasons that the Hulls are going to win their third straight NBA championship, was one Michael Jordan.

"See. this is what it's all about," said Falk, gesturing with a fork as he surveyed his flock of clients, who earlier that evening had helped the Bulls defeat the Miami Meat in a preseason game. "I've got four guys on one team I can come see at the same time. It makes all the business stuff worthwhile. And the best thing is, they are all good guys, guys you can root for."

Falk, "the agent from hell" as one NBA general manager describes him, is not, by most accounts, a guy you can root for. "I'm not in a popularity contest," he often says, and it's a good thing, too. Utter that single syllable—Falk—around the league, and watch the reaction. Or duck. General managers roll their eyes and slowly let out their breath. Coaches purse their lips and pound fists in their palms. League executives shake their heads and slowly count to 10. Falk.

In many, perhaps most, quarters of the league you'll find a grudging admiration for the man. But there is certainly no rush to break bread with him. "I don't like him, but he is smart" is a standard rejoinder to an inquiry concerning Falk.

There is a reluctance to criticize him on the record. Plenty of rival agents would love to lambaste him publicly, but then they would be inviting scrutiny of their own M.O.'s, and the athlete-representation business is not top-heavy with virgins. One agent who will speak on the record is Ron Grinker, perhaps because he and Falk rarely compete for the same players. (Grinker specializes in second-rounders and CBA hopefuls.) "He has a big ego, which we all need," says Grinker, "but it's not bragging at all if you're that good. He's boastful, but he's earned that right."

Then, too, Falk's competitors in the flesh trade run the risk of sounding jealous. Last January, Falk split from his longtime partner at ProServ Inc., Donald Dell, to form ProServ Basketball & Football, which, despite the name, is an autonomous company. He took with him the most impressive client list in the basketball business (chart, left). Besides the four aforementioned Bulls, Falk represents All-Stars Patrick Ewing, Jeff Malone, Xavier McDaniel, Dikembe Mutombo, John Stockton, Dominique Wilkins, Eric (Sleepy) Floyd and Buck Williams. At one time or another balk has had 12 lottery pick—as clients, including four who were the No. 1 choices in their respective drafts.

Carl Scheer, who has negotiated against Falk as an executive with several NBA teams and now owns a sports-marketing and promotion business in Denver, calls Falk the "second-most-powerful man in professional basketball, behind [commissioner] David Stern." Falk has carved out lucrative endorsement deals for his clients with the likes of McDonald's and Wendy's, Kellogg's and Wheaties, Nike and Reebok, Gatorade and Minute Maid. He has fashioned complicated, big-money, multiyear contracts such as Ewing's six-year, $36 million inflation-proof deal with the New York Knicks.

Some in the industry call the Ewing contract "creative," but league and team executives prefer to describe it as "hellish" and "enslaving." Falk got Danny Ferry a 10-year, $37.5 million deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers after engineering Ferry's escape from the Los Angeles Clippers. He got Rex Chapman a four-year extension with the Charlotte Hornets worth $2.3 million annually, and, when neither his client nor the team was happy with the other, he got the blessing of the Hornets to arrange a trade that sent Chapman to the Washington Bullets.

Falk's football clients include Cincinnati Bengal quarterback Boomer Esiason, wide receivers Desmond Howard of the Washington Redskins, James Lofton of the Buffalo Bills and Raghib (Rocket) Ismail of the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, and Minnesota Viking defensive end Chris Doleman. Finally, an eight-year relationship with Jordan has given Falk a power base that few agents could ever hope to have. "Having Michael has brought me my identity," says Falk, "and it would be silly to deny it. I can call up the CEO of any company in the United States, and if they don't know my name, they'll still take my call when they find out I represent Michael Jordan."

Still, not everything is rosy in Falk Land. He represents only one major client in this year's rookie class, Charlotte's Alonzo Mourning, who as of last Friday was still unsigned. Over the years Falk has also lost major clients—most notably, James Worthy of the Los Angeles Lakers and Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics, though it should be noted that both players had trouble finding contentment with other agents. Falk received well-chronicled hits in the press for taking Ewing to arbitration against the Knicks in the summer of 1991 and for taking McDaniel from New York to Boston two months ago. Three years ago he advised former All-Star Adrian Dantley to exercise a buyout clause in his $1.2 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Dantley has scarcely been seen since. And while Jordan has stood by Falk lo these many years, Falk does not enjoy a good relationship with Jordan's mentor, North Carolina coach Dean Smith. In fact, since Jordan and Falk joined forces, no Tar Heel has signed with Falk.

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