Arn Tellem pinpoints the shift in the player-agent dynamic to the advent of the rookie wage scale in 1996 and ensuing restrictions on max salaries.
With the amount of money a superstar player can earn already predetermined, agents became critical to players in exercising power over where he plays and with which teammates.
“That changed the perspective,” Tellem said. “If the salaries are roughly similar, what can a player control? It’s no longer financial. Where he has his say, then, where he has some control, is in the choice of where he plays and with whom he plays.”
Tellem helped Kobe Bryant join the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 when he was in the draft.
Now many players such as Anthony Davis has pre-agency in which they attempt to get to their preferred team before becoming a free agent.
“Other players are seeing the power, influence and control that a great player like (LeBron) James has over an organization, and are striving for that same control, power and influence,” said Jeff Van Gundy. “It’s the next level. And now you have to ask yourself, which I always do on these questions, What’s next?”