Athletics as a Professional or Entrepreneurial Field of Play

Jul 11, 2023

Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz increased paid basketball employment opportunities in the United States in 2023 by 7% through their ownership of the Big 3 Basketball League (  The USFL ( increased paid football employment opportunities by 24% this season because of the reformation of the league in 2022.  LIV Golf ( added eight tournament dates to the schedule for professional golfers to earn income in 2022. I applaud all these entrepreneurial efforts as they offer additional vehicles for people to practice trades and learn skills in professional athletics that were not previously available.  Professional athletics is a unique career path, as there is a finite number of positions available.  Approximately 900,000 teenagers play basketball for high school programs annually in the United States.  Those individuals before the creation of the NBA’s developmental G League, offering another 300 positions, had a total of 654 roster spots available in the NBA and WNBA to fill.  Talk about long odds of being given a chance to do something you are skilled at and enjoy for compensation. Even with the G League, less than 1 in 1000 American high school athletes end up playing professional basketball in the United States, especially with approximately 13% of positions in America’s professional basketball leagues being deservedly filled by foreign nationals (including the top three vote getters for the last two MVP awards in the NBA,  Compare that career choice with becoming a teacher, an occupation that has over 4 million available positions serving K-12 students in the United States, attorney, a profession that has over 1.3 million positions, or working in construction, which employed approximately 10 million people in 2022.  Now add to the equation that just because you got hired one year, it does not mean you will have a position the following one, as each year you have to fight to keep your place on the team.  For the record, the average NBA player works for less than five years in the league before being replaced.  I share this information not to discourage the attempt, but to recognize those who make it. Even the last person on a NBA or WNBA bench should be considered elite in their field in the public eye.  The same goes for people coaching, marketing, facility maintenance, and the executives in professional sports.  Those positions are also scarce and require hard work, perseverance, and a high skill set to obtain and retain.

Many people dream of a career in sports, are willing to give significant effort and make personal sacrifices in pursuit of the goal.  However, eventually, a significant majority are forced for financial or family reasons to find another career path.  That decision does not mean that their involvement in sports is over.  It just means they need to employ their knowledge, experience, and skills another way. A common way to utilize those personal assets is as an entrepreneur serving and supporting the athletic community.

IBA has a long history of supporting business owners in the sale of their athletic industry companies.  We have sold and served as exit planning consultants for companies that manufacture and directly sell athletic apparel including Rush Team Apparel ( and Winner’s Sportswear (; Retailers including 2nd Ascent, now Ascent Outdoors ( and Play Again Sports (; places where fans gather to cheer on their teams including Jaeger’s in Bellevue, owned by NFL and Husky kicker Jeff Jaeger and Mulleady’s Irish Pub (; and athletic training facilities focused on child motor skill coordination like The Little Gym ( and Great Play ( to adults similar to Powerhouse Gym (  IBA is blessed to have on its knowledgeable, experienced, highly skilled team of intermediaries serving this sector two successful, former entrepreneurs in their own regard.  Vishal Punj ( who previously owned gyms in California and Washington and Sally Bergesen ( who created the Oiselle ( running apparel brand.  Both of these individuals, as well as myself, welcome the opportunity to be a resource to entrepreneurs interested in selling or buying athletic focused privately held companies.  All conversations with IBA are held in strict confidence.  Inquiries from professional athletes are also welcome, in IBA’s approximately fifty-year history we are honored to have had the opportunity to discuss and support entrepreneurship efforts by Seahawks, Sonics, Mariners, Sounders, and Trailblazers.

Business is often considered the ultimate competitive sport.  Many lessons (Competition, Practice, Perseverance, Teamwork, Resiliency, Etc.) learned on the field translate favorable to being an entrepreneurial leader.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, legal, and accounting communities on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family-owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.