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Agent Man

After winning championships and working in the Bulls’ front office, B.J. Armstrong plays agent—Derrick Rose’s

By JANE AMMESON
     Part of the magic of the 1990s Chicago Bulls dynasty, B.J. Armstrong was the first round draft pick of the team in 1989. By the end of the 1993 season, he was playing alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, helping the Bulls secure three NBA championship titles in a row.
    Armstrong would go on to play with three other teams before returning to the Bulls in his last year of play, retiring in 2000. But though he’s left the floor, he hasn’t left the game. Currently the vice president of basketball management for the Wasserman Media Group, Armstrong, 42, is a certified agent and represents Derrick Rose, the number one pick in the 2008 NBA draft, selected by the Chicago Bulls. In his role as Rose’s agent, Armstrong also secured the player a multimillion dollar shoe deal and continues to work on developing Rose’s brand by creating partnerships with such companies as Gatorade and Wilson.
    “I’ve had the chance to see the game from all sides,” Armstrong said in a recent telephone interview after he had just returned from China. “I worked in the front office of the Bulls after I left the game, which was a tremendous opportunity to see that perspective, and now as an agent, I have been able to see the game from all sides. It’s very fortunate in that it helps me help my clients.”
    Seeing all sides has been a constant in Armstrong’s life. Raised in Detroit, he not only was an outstanding basketball player, he was also an avid reader, one who liked to devour biographies of world leaders and immerse himself in books about global conflicts.
    “I always say that I grew up playing basketball—that was my pretend job—but the one I didn’t tell anyone [about]was that I was always reading about how people solve problems,” says Armstrong. “I like to see how people express their ideas—the idea of fighting for liberty, equality. I like to find out how they went about it, how did people persevere. When I went to school, it always occurred to me that there were three sides to a deal, to see things from a different perspective.
    “One of my hobbies is international diplomacy,” he continues. “How that happened with me being from Detroit, I have no idea. But it’s important in the work I do now. Even though many of our clients may grow up here and play here, for some, that role may take them to Europe, Asia or South America. The game has become a global game.”
    Armstrong, the father of two young children, Oscar, eight, and Olivia, six, says that being able to change and change quickly is what helped him make the transition from player to agent.
    “And I think that’s important with dealing with issues that happened in the past for all of us,” he says. “What happened yesterday happened. Self-correcting people have a big advantage; they can reflect on it and change. We were all young, so I always say let’s not forget that in our older age.”
    Armstrong’s exposure to the world has convinced him that Chicago is the best place to live.
    “I enjoy the city more now that I get to see other cities around the world,” he says.     And living in Chicago, he is reminded of the old days playing ball with one of the greatest NBA teams ever.
    “We had an amazing amount of characters on the team—Rodman, Jordan, Pippin, Jackson—but the group understood the bottom line,” says Armstrong. “The thing that I was happiest about was that they were a very responsible group of men and women in giving their best effort. The byproduct of that was winning. I was always amazed that the group held itself responsibly. The group always did that. It was a great time, and it’s great when I see them from time to time. We’re all busy now, families, work, but I’m still in the basketball world, and I like being here.”

Published: October 11, 2009
Issue: November 2009 Sports Issue