Is 'Ballers' Based On a True Story? The HBO Series Shows A Common Career Change
The new HBO series Ballers takes a lot of its inspiration, at least in its trailers, from another HBO series about fast living in a hot city full of palm trees... Entourage. And even though Ballers is not based on a true story the way Entourage took inspiration from producer's Mark Wahlberg's life, it has a lot of overlap behind the scenes with Entourage, including Wahlberg. But even though Wahlberg, Jerry Weintraub, and the rest of the creative team seem to have created an original version of the character played by Dwayne Johnson (OK, OK, "The Rock"), that doesn't mean there's never been a NFL star turned sports agent before. In fact, while I wouldn't say it's common, it happens more than you'd realize.
Athletes can be subject to a lot of financial insecurity — their careers are short, can be waylaid by injury, and earning a lot of money in a short period of time can leave them without the resources to know how to save it or spend it wisely. So many athletes wind up going into another business of some kind as they get older. Many invest in restaurants or businesses, look for endorsement deals, or wind up commentating on ESPN panels filled with their fellow former athletes. But there's only a select few who have been able to transition into the management industry. And a few other types of agents and businessmen who also prove that Ballers does have some precedent in the real world.
Probably the closest to the Rock's character, Fields was an NFL player who, following his retirement, became an agent and manager. Right now, Fields represents Amari Jones, a college player preparing to be drafted into the NFL. He also works with Penn State, his alma mater.
He's mostly known as a sports agent, because he retired from playing football after college. He works for Relativity Sports, and is considered a highly successful agent. In an interview with Sports Agent Blog, Dandy described how he thinks athletes need more financial knowhow. "In my opinion, the biggest issue right now is the lack of education and help available to athletes in managing their money and planning for their future. Far too many players are still going broke a few years after retirement," he said, perfectly describing the premise of Ballers.
Described by Rant Sports as the "perfect model for the athlete-turned-agent," Duffy was another star college athlete, this time for basketball, as you can find in his profile on ESPN. But he does have one huge difference from Johnson's character: he's a family man with a family lifestyle, despite "logging 500,000 miles and 200 travel days a year," according to ESPN. He has five kids, which doesn't lend itself to Entourage-style antics.
Parker wasn't once a player, but he does work with NFL players like Hines Ward, Emmitt Smith, and Deion Sanders, and his life was the inspiration for Jerry Maguire, so he's used to the idea of sports agents getting the cinematic treatment.
Fletcher was another player who then headed behind the scenes. According to a list written by Bleacher Report back in 2010, he played briefly in the Arena Football League and was an NFL free agent before becoming a sports agent. Oh, and that's not Fletcher up there, just an example of the indignity of Arena Football.
If you look up "successful sports agent," he comes up, and he certainly represents a later-in-life change of career. As the founder of Roc Nation Sports, the rapper managed to net celebrity athletes like Kevin Durant, and closed an impressive deal with Nike. Plus, while the other people on this list surely have some impressive lifestyles, Jay is the only one who's a real billionaire (and who never played sports professionally).
When it comes to yacht ownership, I think Jay Z is the only one who comes close to what will appear on Ballers. It proves that in real life, I guess at least one specific sports agent is living as large as Johnson's character.
Images: Gene Page/HBO; Giphy