NBA Agent A Globetrotter


Some men in shul this Shabbat will talk about Tony Parker’s flashy play in the NBA Finals over the last week and perhaps, just between guys, Eva Longoria, the breakout star of Desperate Housewives.

But there is a fellow in The Jewish Center pews who will be going to China after the finals with both Parker and Longoria, and won’t that be a story for Steve Heumann to tell?

Yes, he’ll tell his friends on the Upper West Side, Parker’s girlfriend, Longoria, is gorgeous, just gorgeous, and Parker, the San Antonio Spurs French-born star, is as pleasant as his play is compelling.

The modest Heumann, 30, is emerging as a star in his own right as one of the new breed of NBA agents. But he doesn’t see himself that way.

In partnership with Marc Fleisher and Reed Salwen, their firm Entersport has a stable of players worth hundreds of millions of dollars in salary. Heumann’s relationship with clients has him fielding calls on his cell phone at all hours for conversations and counseling that rarely have to do with contracts or the usual expectations of his legal background.

Heumann’s firm specializes in finding foreign players (15 of the NBAís 71 imports), alerting NBA teams to overseas talent, finding the best situation for the players, and helping them with day-to-day logistics and adjustments to the NBA high life.

Earlier this season, on the floor of Madison Square Garden during pre-game warmups, three members of the Utah Jazz Andrei Kirilenko of Russia, Mehmet Okur of Turkey and Gordon Giricek of Croatia came over to embrace Heumann. And in the runway under the stands Kevin OíConnor, the Jazz general manager, spoke of how helpful Heumann was to the players and what a mensch he was to deal with.

Along with Parker, Heumann represents Sean Marks, a Spurs reserve (left off the playoff roster) from New Zealand.

Heumann, an observant Jew, was in San Antonio last week and this week for the Finals games there. He had to skip Game 2 because of Shavuot, returning to his wife and newborn in their Manhattan apartment.

A graduate of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in New Jersey, Heumann majored in political science at Brandeis University, where when he wasn’t coordinating Avraham Friedís first campus concert, he served as the Boston Celticsí ball boy when they practiced at the school. Fleisher, his future partner, represented several Celts and got to know the young Heumann, who joined the firm full-time after graduating from NYU law school.

Among his early clients was Oded Katash, who was offered a contract with the Knicks and may have been the first Israeli in the NBA had the 1998 lockout not led Katash to return home. Katash now coaches Hapoel Galil Elyon in Israelís pro-league, playing in a 3,000-seat arena on a kibbutz. Heumann keeps in touch with Katash, and says he can envision an NBA future for two of the players there. Heumann arranged for one of them, Lior Eliyahu, to participate in a camp in Italy, where 10 NBA teams sent scouts. Heumann makes the effort to develop relationships with playersí families, meeting Parkerís in Paris while Parker was still in high school. Their trip to Beijing is for Basketball Without Borders, an NBA clinic, but Heumann spends most of his travels in more obscure rural or industrial towns in Turkey or Eastern Europe or South America.

When I’m in places like Slovenia or Lithuania, or some of the smaller villages in Turkey, you’re not always sure where you’re going to find the next good player, he says. I’ll rely on local relationships, or someone from the area to help me.

Far from cushioned NBA luxury, Heumann scouts players in cold, smoke-filled, raucous arenas with splintered wooden seats.Obviously I don’t eat anything in these arenas, he says. It’s just as well, Heumann adds, because the hot dogs look different. But it’s in the smaller clubs, on the outskirts, well, that’s where things tend to get a little interesting. I’ve been stuck on Shabbos in a lot of those kinds of places. I just read and catch up on sleep, depending on whether there’s a local Chabad. Heumann observed a yahrtzeit in Barcelona, which was interesting for it being true Sephardic Judaism. He stands in the back after davening and someone invariably invites him home.There is a Chabad in Beijing, come to think of it. So on Friday night in China, Parker and Longoria will just have to find something to do on their own.