Restarting the Clock: Episode 5: Leading From Experience

Andy chats with three time NBA champion and sports agent BJ Armstrong about his career on and off the court and some of his favorite memories of Micahel Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant. 

Despite all the uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic, Armstrong is confident that the upcoming NBA draft and bubble postseason will be memorable. 

“I thought the players did an excellent job and for the amount of time that these players have been off, I thought the play was exceptionally well-played,” Armstrong said. “I was surprised because I didn’t know what to expect.”

Armstrong says he hopes the Lakers and Clippers will be in position to take their hallway rivalry to the bubble in a highly anticipated Western Conference Final.

“You get the everyday experience of living out here in L.A. and the Lakers are the Lakers. But there’s a huge following of Clipper fans out here and this is a great team they’ve assembled, they’ve put together a very competitive group and make no doubt about it, they have a legit chance,” Armstrong said.

This unprecedented NBA restart has focused greatly on social justice issues. Players, coaches, and teams are taking steps to collaborate and raise awareness about racial equity, voting rights, and immigration reform. 

“Understanding is the solution to every problem, and clearly when people don’t understand, you know, you see things and they can go right, left, but when you understand, you can communicate that is the first step,” said Armstrong. “The second step is that we actually have to put this into action. Your words, your actions and your behaviors have to all be lined up.”

As a former player, analyst, and agent Amrstrong has experienced the game from many perspectives. He worked as an ESPN analyst and contributor to ESPN.com before becoming a sports agent at Wasserman Media Group.

“I never set out to be an agent,” Armstrong said. “I got an opportunity to see basketball and the business as they were coming together and then the thing that really just grabbed my attention even to this day is when ESPN came into the picture.”

Armstrong says the game has changed since his days on the court but that some aspects are timeless, like having a relationship with coaches, teammates, and the media. 

“Becoming a professional never changes,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t have the internet, I didn’t have a podcast and all those things weren’t around when I was playing, but having a relationship with the media and understanding the business that you’re in is very, very important.”

“I’m just intrigued by how this business continues to grow, how this business continues to have an impact on our lives and how these young men and women who play sports it really is a very powerful thing, and the life lessons that you can learn,” Armstrong said. “I’ve just kind of learned and I think it’s my appetite to learn that has probably kept me here and kept my interest.”

Finally, Armstrong shared his thoughts on the recent “The Last Dance” documentary series which followed the Chicago Bulls in their 1997-98 season. Armstrong joined the Bulls in 1989 and played alongside Jordan during the 1991-93 championship three-peat.

“I think it’s great for the sport of basketball. I think it’s great for those people who were able to watch and follow the game in that era and kind of relive those moments and you know, Michael was a once in a lifetime generational talent, no doubt about it,” Armstrong said. “Truly I was just watching it through the eyes of this generation because it gave them a glimpse of what it takes and the commitment it takes to be the very best.”

Armstrong also had the opportunity to get to know Kobe Bryant and shares some what he admires most about the Black Mamba.

“You play this game for a lot of different reasons and you know, some people play the game because they love the sport or maybe they play the game because they’re just good at it.  Maybe they play the game because they’re tall, maybe they play the game because they understand defense or they may be a great offensive player, but the one thing about Kobe that I always understood about him, is that he played the game for really one thing,” Armstrong said. “He had a love for the game, clearly you saw that. He respected the game and you know I think it was Michael who said in a documentary, he respected the game and he never wanted to cheat the game.”

Armstrong also shares his memories of Kobe Bryant and a special dinner he, Jordan, and Bryant shared. 
Listen to the full podcast here. Watch the video of the podcast on the @legendsofsport YouTube channel.

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