NBA super agent Bill Duffy has represented Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Luka Doncic and others. Here’s how he stays on top of the industry.
Bill Duffy is one of the most accomplished NBA agents ever, having represented American and international superstars past and present, including Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Luka Doncic, Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo, Nikola Vucevic, Sabrina Ionescu, and Deandre Ayton.
His BDA Sports has been an enduring power in the league for more than 20 years, helping Yao make the transition from China to the NBA, which massively grew basketball’s global reach and appeal. Duffy roomed with college teammate Kevin McHale at the University of Minnesota in the early 1980s and has been close with the game’s greats ever since.
Duffy held court at the NBA All-Star Tech Summit in Cleveland last month, and chatted with Boardroom about his continued success, his unique ability to recruit and sign top international talent, and what keeps him motivated 30 years into his legendary career.
Shlomo Sprung: The industry has changed so much in the last few years. How have you and BDA Sports tried to adapt and adjust to the times?
Bill Duffy: I think understanding the growth of the globalization is probably the key. There’s so many more international superstars. We represent Luka, and a couple of years ago he was Rookie of the Year, Pascal Siakam was the Most Improved Player and Giannis was the MVP. Many of the marquee awards were all international players. So there’s just been a big shift. COVID has really hindered continued development, but I just see basketball rivaling soccer as a global staple in the sports ecosystem.
SS: Why do you think over the course of your career that so many international superstars have gravitated towards your representation?
BD: I think because I made a concerted effort to treat international players like American players. I remember going over to Serbia, and there were agents that kind of didn’t take care of their players. And so the people I signed from that part of the world said ‘we always feel like second-class citizens.’ I said ‘well I’m an American, and you’re working with me, so you’ll be treated like Americans at the highest level.’
SS: You obviously have a very large client list. How do you make sure all those people feel like they’re prioritized?
BD: People ask me that question all the time. I have five children of my own, and if you asked all five of them individually who’s daddy’s favorite, they’ll all say they are. So you give people attention to the level they need it, especially early in their career, and we have a great support system, the best client management support staff in the industry that work with the players and their families on a daily basis so they feel the love and support. And I’m heavily engaged with all the players, so they know I’m personally overseeing all their activities.
SS: What do you see as being the next big innovation in the sport in the next few years?
SS: What are your personal goals these days? You’ve already done so much in your career.
BD: People act like I’m slowing down, but I’m just getting revved up. I have young guys like Josh Christopher, Scottie Barnes, Luka, R.J. Barrett, guys who are 19, 20 years old. So I’m kind of re-invigorated. It’s like having a new child. So you have to change diapers, you’ve got to feed them and get them on their training wheels. I’m fired up for that. I’ve raised my five children, so I have a lot more flexibility with all this experience. So I’m really excited for this next chapter.
SS: Is that what keeps you motivated?
BD: Helping people keeps me motivated. Doing a good job to support people to create legacies behind the scenes, I love that.
SS: Any parting thoughts?
BD: I’m really excited about the WNBA and the investment made in the WNBA and how that’s growing. I love the equality. I’d like to see a lot more racial diversity across the entire American landscape. Me being an African-American, I feel like I can be a leader in that. It’s less so an issue in basketball, but it’s always a disparity that’s alarming. But clearly in football and baseball it’s still a big issue.