Show Them the Money: 8 Famous and Infamous Sports Agents

In addition to all of the stereotypically negative things you might be inclined to say about sports agents, you can say this: they’re an interesting bunch. Here’s a collection of agents who became famous for all the right, wrong, or unlikely reasons.

1. Josh Luchs

Luchs made news in October when the former NFL agent dished about the corrupt nature of the business in a Sports Illustrated cover story. Luchs broke into the agency business after working as a ball boy for the Los Angeles Raiders and learned the ropes from Harold “Doc” Daniels, who had a reputation for paying players. One of the estimated 30 players Luchs paid between 1990 and 1996 was quarterback Ryan Leaf, who received $500 a month at Washington State in a failed effort to land the future NFL disappointment.

While Luchs was never busted for paying players, his career came crashing down when the NFL Players Association suspended him for one year in 2007 for mishandling a commission check and thereby breaching his fiduciary duty to a client. With that stain on his record, Luchs decided his days of pursuing clients were over. He offered some insight in the article as to why he decided to come clean, claiming he doesn’t want his two daughters to Google his name and read only negative things about their father. “I was a good agent and I took care of my players,” Luchs said. “I don't want my career to be defined by that suspension.”

2. Charles C. Pyle

Pyle, who plied his trade as a theater owner and sports agent during the first half of the 20th century, never had to worry about his children Googling his name. Cash and Carry, as C.C. was sometimes known, represented University of Illinois football star Red Grange.

After Grange signed with the Chicago Bears in 1925, Pyle led the “Galloping Ghost” on a lucrative barnstorming tour of the United States. The tour, which featured 16 games in less than two months, earned Grange more than $100,000. When the Bears rejected the halfback’s contract offer for the following season, Pyle threatened to create a rival NFL team in New York City with Grange as the star. The NFL refused to allow it, so Pyle created his own league, the first American Football League. The AFL folded after one season, but Pyle’s New York Yankees franchise, led by Grange, was admitted into the NFL.

Pyle was a master of selling personality as much as athletic prowess. One of his main clients outside of football was French tennis star Suzanne Lenglen, who played in 40 cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Cuba during a 1927 tour. In 1928, Pyle organized the Bunion Derby, a footrace from Los Angeles, to Chicago, to New York.

3. William “Tank” Black

Black was an All-American receiver and assistant coach at the University of South Carolina before starting his own business, Professional Management Incorporated, in 1988. His first client was a fellow former South Carolina receiver, Sterling Sharpe, the seventh pick of the 1988 NFL draft. Over the next decade, Black’s list of star clients at PMI would steadily grow. In 1999, he represented a record five first-round NFL draft picks, in addition to NBA superstar Vince Carter. “What can I say?” Black told Sports Illustrated at the time “It’s a very financially successful business.”

While some agents may have suspected that Black was bending the rules, few could have predicted that he would be involved in one of the biggest sports agent fraud cases in history, and be the subject of investigations by the SEC, IRS, and FBI. When the dust settled, Black served eight years in prison on money laundering and fraud charges, and was accused of scamming his clients, including former University of Florida stars Ike Hilliard and Fred Taylor, out of nearly $15 million.

4 & 5. Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom

In 1985, Walters, a longtime agent in the entertainment business whose clientele included Janet Jackson, expanded his business to include sports representation at the suggestion of the younger Bloom, who had worked as a bouncer at New York’s trendy Studio 54. It turned out to be a bad decision. According to Chris Mortensen’s 1991 book about the infamous duo, Playing for Keeps, Walters and Bloom offered 58 college players $800,000 for the exclusive rights to represent them when they turned pro. Walters and Bloom were soon the subjects of a 17-month FBI investigation, after which they were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit extortion, racketeering, and mail fraud. In addition to accusations that they offered college players money, the indictment alleged that Walters and Bloom threatened players who accepted money but ultimately didn’t sign. Bloom was accused of telling a client and teammate of former Texas standout Everett Gay, “We can get someone from Vegas to come down and see that Everett Gay doesn’t play football again.” The FBI’s investigation revealed connections between Walters and Bloom’s operation and organized crime.

Walters and Bloom were initially charged, but the verdict was thrown out one year later on appeal. Walters continued his career as an agent in the entertainment business. Bloom was shot to death at his Malibu home in 1993.

6. Mark McCormack

McCormack founded International Management Group in 1960 and pioneered the sports marketing industry. He was, by most accounts, one of the good guys in the business, no matter what the head of IMG’s golf division had to say in a 1990 Sports Illustrated article that dubbed McCormack the most powerful man in sports. “We're IBM, the 1927 Yankees, whatever. Everybody hates us.” While playing for the golf team at William & Mary, McCormack met a Wake Forest star by the name of Arnold Palmer. After McCormack earned his law degree at Yale, he met Palmer again at a tournament in Cleveland where he was working at a law firm. A handshake led to a business partnership and McCormack began setting up endorsement deals for Palmer on the side. In 1961, Palmer made an estimated $200,000 in addition to tournament winnings, which was unheard of at the time. McCormack signed Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, and later branched into other sports, signing the likes of Martina Navratilova and Pele. McCormack died at the age of 72 in 2003. Today, IMG boasts nearly 3,000 employees in 30 countries.

7. Leland Hardy

Hardy, a Wharton School graduate whose unique career has included stints on Wall Street and as a professional boxer, as well as 15 years as the business advisor to Serena and Venus Williams, is responsible for what is widely regarded as one of the worst rookie contracts in NFL history. While working for rapper Master P’s firm, No Limit Sports Management, Hardy negotiated the contract for former Texas running back and the No. 5 pick in the 1999 NFL draft Ricky Williams. The eight-year deal included a record $8.84 million signing bonus, but very little guaranteed money. If Williams had a tremendous eight years, the incentive-laden deal called for him to earn as much as $68.5 million. If Williams failed to perform, he could earn as little as $11.6 million over the course of the contract. Williams, who didn’t reach most of the benchmarks in his contract, fired No Limit Sports and signed with Leigh Steinberg in 2003.

Hardy is doing just fine, though. The entrepreneur and owner of thousands of domain names purchased newyork.com for a small fee in 1994. Today, experts estimate he could sell it for $6 million.

8. Dwight Manley

Dennis Rodman was reportedly $1 million in debt when he first met Manley at a Las Vegas casino in 1993. I saw “a diamond in the desert that just needed some polishing,” Manley told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “It was so obvious.” Manley, who sold his rare-coin dealing business when he partnered with Rodman in 1995, helped turn the controversial player into a marketer’s dream. After Rodman was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 1995, he signed a book deal for an autobiography, “Bad As I Wanna Be.” In 1996, Rodman appeared in multiple ads, filmed the movie “Double Team” with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and earned $9 million in non-basketball income. Manley, who later represented Karl Malone among other NBA players, has also produced a History Channel documentary about California Gold Rush-era money and served as a consultant to the FTC and IRS in cases involving valuable coins.

11 Lively Gifts for Plant Parents

Blue Q/Amazon/Picnic Time/World Market
Blue Q/Amazon/Picnic Time/World Market

Many folks have been showing off their green thumbs this year thanks to the pandemic, so why not encourage their hobbies? There's a special gift for every kind of plant parent out there—think starter grow kits to gardening tools to cute cartoon socks. If the Christmas tree in the living room isn't enough greenery for your gift recipient's taste this festive season, we have some great gift options below.

1. Back To The Roots Garden In A Can Herb Growing Kit; $25

Back to the Roots/World Market

Herb gardens are compact, useful, and easy to maintain. If your giftee lives in an apartment and doesn't have outdoor space for a large garden, Back To The Roots's Garden In A Can Herb Growing Kit—a three-pack of basil, cilantro, and mint—is a great place for them to start their indoor horticultural journey.

Buy it: World Market

2. Plants Rock Cactus Growing Kit; $13

Plants Rock/World Market

Another option for small spaces is cacti, which do not require much water or attention. This kit makes it easy to start growing cacti in your gift recient's home. The tools are all included, so all your giftee has to do is plant the seeds and set the ceramic pot in a sunny spot.

Buy it: World Market

3. Picnic Time Folding Garden Stool With Tools; $69

Picnic Time/World Market

For more experienced gardeners, tools are essential for helping plants thrive. This stool with tools might solve the problem of sore knees and backs from kneeling in dirt. Not only is the seat portable and lightweight, but it also includes a storage tote and five pockets for tools like the included trowels and garden forks.

Buy it: World Market

4. Green and Pink Ribbed-Glass Plant Misters; $26

World Market

Indoor plants need as much care and attention as their outdoor cousins, but lugging around a watering can may cause a mess in your giftee's home. Using this set of two plant misters is an easy way to keep moisture-loving plants like orchids and Boston ferns nice and dewy.

Buy it: World Market

5. Cotton Macramé Plant Hanger; $18

World Market

Macramé plant hangers were all the rage back in the '70s. They've made a comeback this year as people have become craftier at home. This plant hanger is great for showing off plants that grow long, curtain-like tendrils and helpful when your giftee lives in a small space. With the roof as the limit, they can pack in as many plants as they want.

Buy it: World Market

6. Can't Kill Me 2021 Calendar; $8

TF Publishing/World Market

If your gift recipient loves plants but can't keep real ones alive, give them this mini wall calendar. It features, well, plant arrangements they can't kill, like succulents, bonsai trees, and snake plants. This calendar will surely add a dose of green to their home office.

Buy it: World Market

7. The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-Plant Family; $17

Harry N. Abrams/Amazon

All gardeners want one simple thing: to know more about keeping their plants alive and thriving. This book has all the essentials for cultivating houseplants. It's full of tips and tricks for repotting a plant, taking care of certain types of plants, and adjusting light for your plant baby's survival.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Homenote Bamboo Plant Labels; $14

HOMENOTE/Amazon

Plant labels are a great way for your giftee to remember where they planted their rosemary versus their parsley before they sprout. This 60 label set comes with a pen, so the labeling process is a breeze.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Blue Q Proud Plant Mom Socks; $13

Blue Q/Amazon

Proud plant moms want to show off their love for their greenery any way they can. That's why these crew socks will be a hit with any of your green-thumbed friends. Blue Q also donates 1 percent of its sales revenue to Doctors Without Borders.

Buy it: Amazon

10. EuroGraphics 1000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle; $20

EuroGraphics Toys/Amazon

This 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle will occupy your gift recipients from the fall harvest to the spring planting season. The challenging design of multiple succulents features each plant's common and scientific name.

Buy it: Amazon

11. AeroGarden Indoor Hydroponic Garden; $124

AeroGarden/Amazon

If seasons don't matter to your giftee and they want to start their herb garden right now, then the AeroGarden is going to be their best friend. They'll be able to grow herbs like dill, thyme, and mint indoors in the middle of winter. Thanks to the LED grow lights, there is no need to worry about plants getting enough sunlight. They can grow up to six plants at a time, all year round.

Buy it: Amazon

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From Ear to Eternity: When Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) compete in their rematch in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997. The bout would make sports history.
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

As the 16,000 spectators began filing out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, following a night of fights on June 28, 1997, MGM employee Mitch Libonati noticed something strange on the floor of the boxing ring. He later described it as being roughly the size of a fingernail, with the texture of a piece of hot dog or sausage.

It was no concession stand remnant. It was a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Wrapping the morsel of flesh in a latex glove, Libonati hurried backstage, where Holyfield was conferring with officials and doctors after his opponent, Mike Tyson, had been disqualified for biting him on the left ear. In all the commotion, Libonati wasn't allowed inside the room. But Michael Grant, one of Holyfield’s training partners, accepted the ear fragment on Holyfield’s behalf.

Libonati’s discovery was the climax to one of boxing’s most controversial and bizarre evenings, one in which "Iron" Mike Tyson—the most famous fighter of his era—meted out a savage reprimand for what he perceived was dirty fighting on the part of Holyfield. The ear-biting far exceeded the brutal underpinnings of boxing and added to Tyson's reputation as a frenzied combatant both in and out of the ring.

 

Mike Tyson’s collision with Evander Holyfield had started when the two were just teenagers. On the amateur circuit, they had sparred together—not quite knowing the heights each would achieve, but understanding the other would be a formidable obstacle if they were to ever meet as professionals.

Evander Holyfield (L) had success against Mike Tyson (R) early on.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Tyson was a prodigy, having won the heavyweight championship of the world in 1986 at the age of 19 and dominating the division up until an upset loss to James “Buster” Douglas in Tokyo, Japan, in 1990. Holyfield was the lighter fighter at cruiserweight (190 pounds), moving up to the heavyweight division in 1988 and gaining respect for his trilogy with Riddick Bowe.

Long before that fateful night in 1997, Tyson's personal life had started to overshadow his accomplishments inside the ring: An allegedly abusive marriage to actress Robin Givens darkened his image in the media and ended in a very public divorce after just one year. In 1992, a rape conviction sidelined the fighter for more than three years while he served out his prison sentence.

When Tyson returned to the ring, he rattled off a string of wins against fighters not quite at his level, including Peter McNeeley, Buster Mathis Jr., Frank Bruno, and Bruce Seldon. Holyfield had stepped away from competition in 1994, but as Tyson knocked off inferior opponents, talk of a bout with Holyfield intensified. Finally, the two met in Las Vegas on November 9, 1996, with Tyson a 17-1 favorite over the semi-retired Holyfield.

Holyfield would prove his doubters wrong. Through 11 rounds of action, he outmaneuvered and outclassed Tyson by negating his opponent's power with movement and volume. Holyfield also landed headbutts that were declared unintentional, but to Tyson seemed deliberate. Before the fight could see a 12th round, Holyfield knocked Tyson down and earned a technical knockout victory.

 

While it was an undoubtedly disappointing moment for Tyson, an upset in boxing virtually guarantees a lucrative rematch deal. Both men agreed to meet a second time, with Holyfield earning $35 million and Tyson getting $30 million. Tyson’s camp, however, insisted that the referee from the first bout, Mitch Halpern, not be booked for the second, because Tyson felt he failed to call the illegal headbutts. The Nevada State Athletic Commission didn’t want to be seen capitulating to Tyson’s demands, but Halpern stepped aside voluntarily. So referee Mills Lane took his place.

Evander Holyfield (L) and Mike Tyson (R) first met as amateurs.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Before a huge crowd full of A-list celebrities like Sylvester Stallone and a then-record 1.99 million households that had purchased the event on pay-per-view, Tyson and Holyfield met for a second time at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 28, 1997. While Holyfield took the first round, Tyson appeared fit and adaptive, and came out blazing in round two. Then, just as Tyson had feared, Holyfield’s headbutt struck him again.

The clash of heads opened a cut over Tyson’s right eye, which threatened to obscure his vision as the fight went on. It also opened a reservoir of frustration in the fighter that would manifest in a spectacularly violent way.

Coming out for the third round, Tyson had forgotten his mouthpiece and had to go back and retrieve it—a foreshadowing of things to come. His aggression was working against Holyfield, but with 40 seconds left in the round, the two clinched up. Tyson moved his mouth so it was near Holyfield’s right ear. With his mouthpiece still in place, he clamped down on the ear, ripped the top off, and spat it along with his mouthguard onto the canvas.

Holyfield jumped up in the air in shock and pain. Referee Mills Lane was initially confused by what had happened until Holyfield’s trainers, Don Turner and Tommy Brooks, yelled out what Tyson had done. Lane called for a doctor then told Marc Ratner, the executive director of the athletic commission, that he was going to end the fight. Ratner asked if he was sure. Seeing Holyfield was bleeding from his ear but otherwise ready to fight, Lane waved the two men back into competition.

Incredibly, Tyson bit Holyfield a second time, this time on the left ear, before the round ended. This time, Lane was aware of what was happening and had seen enough. Before the start of the fourth round, he disqualified Tyson.

 

That was far from the end of it. Realizing he had lost the fight, Tyson grew incensed, shoving Holyfield from behind and pawing at the security guards who had stormed the ring in an attempt to restore order.

After the bout, Tyson didn’t appear to be overly contrite. He explained that he was frustrated at Holyfield headbutting him without being penalized, and said he had lost control.

An emotional Mike Tyson reacts to his disqualification loss to Evander Holyfield.Focus On Sport/Getty Images

“Listen,” Tyson said. “Holyfield is not the tough warrior everyone says he is. He got a nick on his ear and he quit.”

Tyson believed his retaliation was justified. “This is my career," he said. "I’ve got children to raise and this guy keeps butting me, trying to cut me and get me stopped on cuts. I’ve got to retaliate. What else could I do? He didn’t want to fight. I’m ready to fight right now. Regardless of what I did, he’s been butting me for two fights. I got one eye. He’s not impaired. He’s got ears. I’ve got to go home and my kids will be scared of me. Look at me, look at me, look at me!”

Two days later, Tyson issued a tempered apology in an effort to minimize the consequences, but it was too late. In addition to losing his boxing license in the state of Nevada, Tyson was fined 10 percent of his purse, or $3 million, which was thought to be the largest fine in sports at the time.

 

Tyson could never entirely shake the stigma of his actions. When a lucrative bout with Lennox Lewis was being planned in 2002, the fight ultimately ended up taking place in Memphis, Tennessee; Nevada refused to restore Tyson's license following a press conference brawl between the two men.

Tyson ultimately continued competing through 2005, when he lost his last bout to Kevin McBride. Holyfield retired in 2011. Earlier this year, the 54-year-old Tyson expressed a desire to return to the ring. The fighter once known as "The Baddest Man on the Planet" is scheduled to fight Roy Jones Jr. on November 28, 2020. Yet Holyfield, now 57 years old, remains a possible future opponent.

The two have occasionally interacted in public in interviews, with Tyson expressing remorse and Holyfield admitting he briefly thought about biting Tyson on his face right back. The pair even filmed a spot for Foot Locker in which Tyson “gave” Holyfield the missing piece of his ear.

In reality, Holyfield never did get his ear back. After Mitch Libonati handed it over to Michael Grant, the piece somehow fell out of the latex glove while being transported to the hospital.

Many fighters talk about leaving a little piece of themselves in the ring. It’s usually metaphorical. For Evander Holyfield, it was simply the truth.