PHOENIX — Back in June Lon Babby was nothing more than a 59-year-old player agent trying to sell his client, Hedo Turkoglu, to the Phoenix Suns.
But after an opportunity opened up in the Suns’ front office, Babby set the contract negotiations aside and made the jump from agent to NBA executive, capitalizing on what he called an “opportunity of a lifetime.”
“This truly is a dream come true for me,” Babby said when he was introduced as the Phoenix Suns’ president of basketball operations Tuesday.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me and the reason I say that is because it allows my career to come full circle,” he added. “Now I have an opportunity to bring what I’ve seen and learned over those many, many years to this wonderful organization.”
Babby has been all over the sports world for 35 years, working as a player agent for the last 16 years and in management prior to that.
The Yale Law School graduate has done it all, from representing players like Tim Duncan, Ray Allen and Grant Hill, to teaching law at George Washington University Law School. So what made Babby interested in adding “NBA executive” to his resumé?
“Look, I’m 59 years old,” he said. “I view this as a culmination of a great set of opportunities that I’ve had.”
The New York-native then went on to cite the book Outliers, where author Malcolm Gladwell states that you have to put in 10,000 hours of work to be good at anything.
“Over the last 35 years I feel that I’ve put in those 10,000 hours to be in a position to do this job and it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Babby said.
While it is certainly unconventional for a player agent to enter the front office, Babby’s experience dealing with NBA front offices and players should bring a new element to the Suns. As managing partner Robert Sarver put it, “He’s got a unique insight into this business.”
“He’s got unique insight in dealing with players, knowing what makes them feel good,” Sarver added. “I’m just really excited that all that experience, all that insight and all that talent is now going to be on the side of the Phoenix Suns.”
Babby explained that as an agent he had a “window into every organization in the NBA.” He said that because of that window he has a great sense of what works and what doesn’t in the NBA. He knows the pressure points of both the teams and the players, which should make his job as president of basketball operations that much easier in Phoenix.
Not only does the highly-regarded former agent know the ins and outs of negotiating, but he also has some pretty strong relationships already formed in Phoenix.
Because he represented Hill since 1994, Babby has a great relationship with, not only Hill, but former Detroit Pistons head coach Alvin Gentry as well.
“I’ve known Lon for a long time,” Gentry said. “We got along great when he was an agent so now that he’s actually on our team I think it will be that much better. I think he’ll do a fantastic job here.”
Babby said that his friendship with Gentry played a big role in his decision to come to Phoenix, and joked that he’s enjoyed Hill calling him “boss” for the last week or so. But the Suns relationships don’t just stop with Gentry and Hill.
Babby’s agency also represented Josh Childress before the former Hawk recently cut those ties and he has a close relationship with Turkoglu as well. Babby and Suns executive Rick Welts have also known each other for 20 years. Needless to say, Lon Babby certainly isn’t a stranger in Phoenix.
He is, however, a stranger to life as an NBA executive. But even though Babby is in uncharted territory, he’s been around the league for decades and has the skill-set to be an extremely successful, yet unorthodox, president of basketball operations.
Babby isn’t going to find a diamond in the rough through the draft, or scout out young talent, but he knows how to negotiate, has a great grasp of the salary cap and has the experience, reputation and smarts to do big things in Phoenix.
“He’s just got impeccable not only credentials, but character and reputation of being someone that’s not only honest and forthright, but being someone that people really like to deal with,” Sarver said of Babby.
After 35 years in sports, the player agent turned NBA executive is finally living the dream. It has been an unconventional road to the front office for Babby, but he’s put in his 10,000 hours of work and is now ready to make the best of his opportunity.
“Who has this kind of opportunity?” Babby asked rhetorically. “I’m relishing it. … I’m looking forward to this challenge.”
Tags: Lon Babby