Lessons NBA Front Offices Could Learn from “Pawn Stars”

Pawn Stars (25) - 523x327

Count the rings? We have a case full.

I like to have a good “light show” on while I work on my sports projects. My latest delight is Pawn Stars, which is available for “free” if you have Amazon Prime. While writing about the missteps of NBA front offices and watching a show all about being a shrewd business person, I thought it’d be fun to give some easy lessons every front office could take from a great reality show.

Be Willing to Walk Away

“I’m sorry we weren’t able to make a deal.” is what Rick will typically say when he declines to purchase an item. Sometimes this is because the item isn’t worth a ton. Sometimes it’s because of logistical reasons  — e.g. it won’t fit in his shop. However, sometimes a customer has a very good item that is worth a good deal. But the key to being a good business person is to get get value. I often hear that NBA teams HAD to overpay a player. Sadly, I often disagree. Being willing to part with bad or overpriced investments would help out so many NBA teams.

Don’t be a fan

On the same note, Rick is a pretty big fan of a lot of the big ticket items he purchases. Vintage guns, arts, guitars, etc. are all things that people bring in. Regardless, Rick views each item as someone trying to make money. The NBA is full of a lot of big names. Things like age, injury, etc. can make these players bad investments. Sure, it’s worth being good to your employees. But don’t extend that out to overzealous fandom.

Do your research!

Everyone that comes in is asked “Where did you get this?” (theft is a major problem for many Pawn Shops) In addition, the “I have a friend who’s an expert in this, mind if I give them a call?” is a very common line. The Pawn Stars call in experts to examine products for value, wear and tear, authenticity, etc. NBA teams could take note. Of course, Rick is able to easily verify his experts. If they say a product will be worth a certain amount, or will cost a certain amount to repair, that’s easy to confirm. One has to wonder what the “experts” NBA teams use say, and how teams verify it.

Don’t be fooled by potential

Pretty common items that come in are fixer uppers. Some of these are high-end items like cars or boats that can worth over $100,000. All they need is a little work. In these circumstances Rick is very likely to either pay a low amount or walk away. Many NBA teams are swayed by what a player could be. I remember hearing if Melo just stopped taking midrange jumpers and improved his D, he’d be a star! Being aware that the work to turn potential into value can be very timely and very costly is key. It’s not uncommon that the money Rick pays for repairs is two to three times the price he paid for the original item.

Know how to assess value

Sometimes people bring in super rare items (one customer had a glass sword!). Sometimes items will be associated a famous celebrity, but not in a meaningful or verifiable manner. It’s important to have an end goal. Rick will look at how much money he can sell something for. If that other stuff doesn’t help that, he disregards it. NBA teams would do well to do this as well. Looking like an athlete, playing for a winning team, scoring lots of points inefficiently? These things don’t matter for the end goal of winning games.

Summing up

Watching Pawn Stars is a ton of fun. I’d be lying if I didn’t say watching a show of NBA GMs trying to wheel and deal wouldn’t be equally as fun. Teams put a lot of time, effort, and money trying to win more games. It’s funny that my best advice is a few hours of some cheesy reality TV shows could teach many teams a lot.


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