At 17 years old, most people are in their junior or senior year of high school trying to figure out what college they may attend, or maybe they’re merely trying to discover who they are and what lies ahead. The same can’t be said for Ariel Levy, who incredibly enough is already running an agency specializing in representing NBA players at this age with three years of experience working in the marketing side of the business.
Levy is as driven and as entrepreneurial as it gets. The 17-year-old is paving the way for millennials while shattering any notion of age holding young people back from achieving their goals and living the dream of doing what they genuinely love to do.
The ambitious Levy recently spoke with ClutchPoints about his journey as part of a two-man team at ASL Sports Group along with certified NBA agent, Jake Wachsman.
Levy describes the challenges of working in an extremely competitive industry and the hurdles he’s had to overcome while providing some insight on what it is like to be an agent working with professional athletes on a daily basis.
Ryan Ward: What made you decide to pursue this career?
Ariel Levy: I first started off in marketing. When I was 14 I started doing that with some NBA guys and then built my connections on that side with players, coaches, teams, and companies, obviously.
It really helped me build my connections first. I found it better starting on the marketing side, which was kind of a back route in the sense of building the connections and all that first and then getting into the agency side of the business.
So I did that for a little while with some NBA players building their brand, website, and/or merchandise line. That’s where I first started off, and then I began working with who I’m partnered with now. His name is Jake Wachsman. He’s our certified NBA agent. I started working with him more on the marketing and all that. After a certain amount of months, we just said let’s get the license and let’s do this.
So how did you get these players, coaches, and whomever you’ve been working with to trust you at 14 years old?
AL: It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of convincing and improving. A lot of the time it would just be saying I have something on the table for them, because for me to just start talking and saying I’m going to get you this and this, there was no way they were going to believe me and give me a chance.
At that stage, it was more of me having the deal ready in hand and ready for them to sign to get the endorsement out there or whatever it is for them to be like, ‘this kid is legit he’s actually going to get it for me.’
Is there any agent out there today that inspired you to take this career path?
AL: The leaders of the business, obviously. Guys like Rich Paul, Jeff Schwartz, and Leon Rose. Those type of guys. I see the passion that they have for it and what they’ve done.
If these type of guys can do it, there’s no reason I can’t do it. For me, it’s a matter of why not start young. Why wait until I’m 30 and then start getting into the business because I’m at an age where people will trust me and believe in me more?
As far as guys I look up to, it’s just the leaders of the business. Those are the guys that inspire me seeing how far they’ve come and how much they lead this business as far as the agents.
What has been the most difficult challenge so far? Is it just your age or another aspect of the business?
AL: I’m trying to get this agency (ASL) at a high level really quick. I know there are agents that like to take it slow and build up on some solid main players and go from there.
For me, I’m trying to get this going real quick, and having the marketing background and working with NBA players in marketing, I feel like it’s a good selling point for me to attract players.
Things I’ve bumped into as far as challenges… obviously when I’m at a meeting with a player, and they’ll be like, ‘Look, I got approached by this guy who’s been in the business for 20 plus years, and they’re promising this and this.’ It’s tough for me to handle that and fight against that and to come up with answers that make them change their mind and say, ‘I’m going with you rather than him.’ That’s probably been my biggest challenge is winning big-name guys and losing them to big companies like CAA and Excel.
At this point, I don’t really find many difficulties. I just find the difficulty as far as winning big-name guys coming out of college because that’s who everyone is after these days. For me to get those guys, it’s very hard, and especially since I’m trying to go after guys that companies like CAA, Excel, and BDA Sports are going after. It’s not easy, but that’s the challenge. That’s probably been the hardest thing I’ve faced. Trying to win clients over other agencies that have been in the business for a long time.
Do you have a goal in mind or something you want to achieve within the next few years?
AL: For me, I really see it as an agency that’ll blow up real soon. I don’t really want to set my goals for 10, 15, or 20 years because it’ll only just set me back from making it happen quicker.
I try to set my goals two, three, four or five years. That’s getting multiple NBA players, and hopefully having an NBA player on a max-contract real soon. I see we’re not far from it. We have five guys in the G League this season. Hopefully getting guys on deals like two-ways or Exhibit 10s where they’re really at that NBA level or borderline.
The goal is bringing this agency to competition with agencies that have been in this business for 20, 30 or 40 years. We want to get on that level and compete with them in the next few years.
What athletes do you currently represent, and is it solely NBA or are you dabbling in the NFL or any other sports?
AL: On the marketing side, I work with NBA and NFL players. Then on the agency side, it’s strictly basketball players. For the marketing, I work with Michael Beasley and a few other guys.
On the NFL side, a guy on the Denver Broncos. A guy on the New York Giants. A few guys I just work with marketing wise. Just helping build their brand with their websites, branding, logo, merchandise line, and endorsements.
Are there any aspects of being in the industry that most people don’t realize that you have to deal with?
AL: What people don’t realize the most is the competition. That’s because people see how hard it is to become an agent and to get the license. What I would say is the hardest part is dealing with the competition and trying to recruit a player that is getting recruited from 10 other agents. What’s your strategy for them to go with you rather than any of the other 10 agents?
Getting the license is not the craziest thing. They have the test every year, and a lot of people get them, but it is a matter of who is going to actually do it. Who is going to actually make it? Who is going to make that top 30-40 in the league that controls the league?
You have 700 or 800 agents in the NBA. I don’t know exactly what the number is, but it is a matter of really 30 or 40 agents that are controlling the league. The first 15 to 20 are controlling and another 15 to 30 that are very heavily involved and are on the make-or-break of getting there.
It just shows the crazy competition even with the top-30 to 40 agents because you’ll have that one really good player that those top agents are going after that player. It can be crazy to land a player like that.
For a guy starting off, it’s not easy. When someone is just breaking into the agency business, and they’re thinking ‘I want to be an NBA agent and I want to have a large client list real soon.’ It’s not easy to get there. It’s a lot of grinding and a lot of work, and it’s a lot of connections. It’s a lot of everything that you need to get to that stage because, like I said, the competition is crazy.
What part of the job do you enjoy the most?
AL: That’s a tough question. I enjoy it all. I just love basketball. For me, dealing with basketball players and dealing with NBA clients. Guys that I watched my whole life, and now saying I actually represent this guy, it’s a big deal for me because you see so many kids just like me that love basketball.
For me, it’s just getting a chance to actually work with these guys and NBA players giving you a chance to work with them. It’s really an awesome thing.
Tell us about your agency, ASL Sports Group.
AL: ASL Sports Group was founded two years ago when it was really set in stone as a real company. It’s run by me and my partner, who is our certified agent, Jake Wachsman. As of today, we have 11 players. Four former guys who have been on NBA rosters. Five guys in the G League this past season, and we have three new rookies we just recruited for this season.
Our goal right now at the stage we’re at is getting as many of those guys to the NBA. We focus a lot on the G League and building our connections there. I’m pretty well connected with every general manager and coach in the G League.
The G League, we’ve found, is a really good route for us and helping us grow with high-class players. Overseas as well. We focus a lot overseas, contract wise. Getting guys there for good money. Good leagues where they can grow there and maybe come back and have a summer in the NBA Summer League.
Taking that route as far G League and really high-class overseas leagues to get guys to the NBA.
Follow ASL Sports Group on Twitter and Instagram.
Contact Ariel Levy via email: [email protected]