Seller's market

Updated: July 22, 2004, 9:19 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Kevin Ollie had mixed emotions when he got the call from his agent that he had been traded back to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Ollie looked forward to returning to Philly, where he enjoyed two stints during the 1999-2000 and the '00-01 seasons, but dreaded the fact that he'd have to get rid of the home he bought last summer after he signed a five-year, $15 million with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now that Shaquille O'Neal is in Miami, he wants to sell his home in L.A.
"It comes with the territory," said Ollie, who has played with 10 teams in his seven-year career but never owned a home before he bought his four-bedroom spread in the Cleveland suburbs. "My wife is the expert though. She accepts that it's part of my job and she takes care of all the moving stuff."

July is high season for buying and selling in the NBA, and those terms aren't just exclusive to teams who are trading and signing players. When deals happen, players who find themselves in new cities have to look for new homes, not to mention decide what they want to do with their old home.

Shaquille O'Neal's trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Miami Heat makes his West Coast home geographically undesirable. So the For Sale sign, at least figuratively, went up in front of his 12,500-square-foot estate in Beverly Hills. His three-story, seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom home, which comes complete with an elevator, movie theatre and basketball court, is listed at $7.5 million.

O'Neal already owns a $5 million home in Windermere, Fla., though at 240 miles from Miami, it's too far to commute to Heat home games. That's why realtors are competing to find Shaq a house in Miami, according to high-end Florida real estate brokers. The commission on a multi-million dollar home can be quite a payday, even if the traditional 6 percent is split between two agents.

Luxury living
Those who grow frustrated with the merry-go-round that is the nomadic life of a professional athlete find it easier to live in temporary housing.

Players who went this route include Chris Gatling, who played for eight teams in his 11-year career, and Chucky Brown, who shares the record with Tony Massenburg for playing with 12 teams in a NBA career.

Brown bought a town home his second year in the league with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but sold it when he was waived two months into his third season. Throughout the rest of his 13-year career, he lived in apartments and hotels.

After Brown was waived by Cleveland during the 1991-92 season, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West told him the team would pay for his housing if he agreed to live in a hotel.

"I said, 'Man, I'm single and I ain't crazy,' " said Brown, who sometimes would exchange Lakers tickets with the hotel staff in order to lower the cost of the rooms he stayed in.

Players who have been released or traded before a lease runs out are protected by the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The team that acquires a player is responsible for "reasonable" expenses incurred as a result of the move, the equivalent value of 30 days in a hotel in the team's home city and three months rent (up to $9,000) to pay for the player's lease in his former city.

During his stint with the New Jersey Nets the following season, Brown stayed in a hotel that offered a free happy hour to its guests.

"It was a madhouse in there," Brown said. "I'd stand on the balcony just to watch."

-- Darren Rovell

Brian Grant put his Coral Gables home up for sale after he became a Laker in the O'Neal trade and could have a buyer as soon as Thursday, according to Saddy Delgado of Avatar Real Estate Services. He paid $3.4 million for his 10,000-square-foot house, but is asking more than $5 million for it 2 years later.

"He bought the house when it was being constructed and it's definitely a seller's market down here," said Delgado, whose firm has previously sold houses to Glen Rice, Juwan Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Livan Hernandez.

Playing home games across the country won't affect Odom's recent purchase of a seven-bedroom residence in Pinecrest, near Miami. The 6-foot-10 power forward paid nearly $3 million for the 8,814-square foot house on 1.1 acres of land, but he has elected to keep it for now, according to his agent Jeff Schwartz. At the news conference introducing him as a Laker last Friday, Odom said he had yet to furnish his Pinecrest home besides his bed, sofa and a kitchen set.

"There are many factors that contribute to a player selling or keeping his house," Schwartz said. "Maybe they want their kids to stay in the same school district, maybe they want to take their kids with them and maybe they just like where they lived before."

When Odom played for the Clippers between 1999-2003, he purchased a home in Marina del Rey, but never sold it. Perhaps Vlade Divac wishes he had done the same after he left the Lakers eight years ago. In 1996, when he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Kobe Bryant, Divac elected to keep his house in Pacific Palisades, Calif., before eventually deciding to put it on the market earlier this year. He sold it in April, three months before he resigned with the Lakers as a free agent earlier this week.

With all the buying and selling going on, savvy real estate agents can make a lot of money minding the sports transaction wires.

Jordan Cohen, a broker with Remax Olson in Westlake Village, Calif., said he has negotiated the sales and purchases of homes for more than 20 NBA players over the years. He recently sold former Lakers guard Mitch Richmond's house in Calabasas, and he's the listing agent who is trying to sell O'Neal's house in Beverly Hills.

Cohen says his business is built on player referrals and his relationship with high-profile agents.

"Players usually buy when they are playing in Los Angeles, because the price of leasing is high," Cohen said. "And they often like to add their personal touches."

Any house with Superman's logo painted on the backyard basketball court has to come with an extraordinary price: $7.5 million.
O'Neal, for example, turned the tennis court at his Beverly Hills home into a basketball court, with a Superman logo painted on the floor.

Cohen says that buying and selling on a player's behalf is difficult. That's because the people who are buying from a player often try to get a lower price because they know the financial wherewithal of the player, while the people selling try to get more for the same reasons.

Location of a high-priced house is also very important in being able to sell it. Grant may have no problem unloading his house, which is on the water in Florida, but the houses of Antonio Davis and Jalen Rose near Indianapolis were on the market for more than a year before they were sold.

"It's a very transient life," said agent Bill Duffy, who represents several NBA players, including Davis and Steve Nash. "We always tell young players that they are likely to be traded at least once, maybe twice, so don't overspend in a market."

Nash, the former Dallas Mavericks guard who signed a five-year, $65 million deal with the Suns earlier this month, already has put his Dallas house on the market and found a new home in Phoenix.

Although real estate values often increase, the news of a player's trade or free-agent signing can be leveraged against them when they are negotiating the sale or purchase of a home. "Players can take a bath on their old house, because everyone knows that they've already left town," Duffy said.

Commission fees can be saved when players sell properties to teammates or other athletes. Players look for many of the same amenities, like workout facilities, that are common in the homes of other professional athletes.

Richmond's house in Calabasas was originally owned by Keyshawn Johnson, the Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver. O'Neal's new teammate with the Heat, Eddie Jones, used to play for the Lakers earlier in his career and bought a home in Playa Del Rey, Calif., for $1.35 million from Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

Ollie is shopping his house around to Cleveland Browns players before he puts it on the market as soon as next week.

"Hopefully I'll be able to make some money on it," Ollie said. "I definitely don't want to lose money."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com

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ESPN.com Sports Business reporter