Run through the list of the greatest Iowa basketball players of all time and it doesn’t take long to say the name B.J. Armstrong.
The former Hawkeye guard from 1986-89 ranks fifth in school history in points and assists, playing a key role on Dr. Tom Davis’ early Iowa squads that made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.
After an 11-year NBA playing career, a stint in the Chicago Bulls front office and some time in front of the camera as an analyst for ESPN, Armstrong saw a need to explore another aspect of sports that had piqued his interest ever since he stepped on the court at the University of Iowa.
Armstrong, 49, is an executive VP and managing executive at Wasserman, an agency that represents athletes, broadcasters, coaches, brands and properties all over the world.
The former Hawkeye has been with the agency since 2007, serving as the player agent for a number of NBA players, including Derrick Rose, Draymond Green, and Denzel Valentine, among others, as well as former Hawkeyes such as Devyn Marble and Matt Gatens.
When looking for potential clients, Armstrong says he’s seeking someone that shares his passion and drive to be the best, and someone who shares the same curiosity he had as a player about how the business side of sports works.
“I really wanted to understand the business of sports from top to bottom,” he said. “It was a dream to play college athletics but there was a business aspect I wanted to learn — how partnerships and sponsorships worked, why we wore the brand of sneakers we wore, why the building signage was what it was. I can vividly remember being aware that there was more to the sport than me just putting on a uniform and trying to win a game.”
When Armstrong got to the professional ranks, that curiosity increased tenfold. The game of basketball was growing on a global scale, and he became intrigued with how the teams and owners all worked together to operate the league.
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Armstrong said he never set out to be an agent, rather he grew into the role because he saw a need to be a mentor and to help young professional basketball players understand the business side of the game. When he was playing, the former Hawkeye said he didn’t have resources readily available to help understand the business side of basketball.
“What gets me excited is an opportunity to work with young people and help them understand the business,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to help athletes transition from the collegiate level to the professional ranks. I’ve been through it and experienced it, now I want to be a resource for young people.”
The Detroit native didn’t much of a chance to show off his skills as a freshman at Iowa, but he flourished in his final three seasons under new head coach Tom Davis, averaging double-digit points and leading the team in assists three straight seasons.
Playing alongside the likes of Roy Marble and Ed Horton, Armstrong helped the Hawkeyes to a 77-25 record in Davis’ first three seasons as head coach, including Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearances in back-to-back seasons.
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“I have a lot of pride when I talk about Iowa,” he said. “I always joke that somehow I’m going to get back there. I don’t know how, but I love that university and everything it has done for me and my family.”
Armstrong was selected with the 18th pick in the 1989 NBA Draft by a first-year head coach named Phil Jackson. He came off the bench on Chicago’s first two championship squads, averaging 8.8 and 9.9 points per game, respectively. On the Bulls third title team, the former Hawkeye stepped into the starting lineup in 74 of the team’s 82 regular season games, averaging 12.3 points per game and leading the league in 3-point field goal percentage.
He remained a full-time starter for the Bulls and made the NBA All-Star team in 1994, and went on to play for the Charlotte Hornets and Golden State Warriors before retiring as a Bull in 2000.
Away from work, Armstrong describes his life as “pretty simple.” He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three kids, and enjoys the simple pleasures of watching his children navigate through life as they make decisions and start to choose colleges.
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Recently, he’s become very interested in social media and how people consume sports content. Last June, Armstrong started a basketball podcast with Bleacher Report writer Ric Bucher that has since produced 27 episodes.
The former Hawkeye isn’t sure what the future holds and where his career will take him next.
Asking questions and being curious is what led him to being a sports agent, and he’s always seeking out information and doing his own self-study about new topics that draw his interest.
“I grew up in Detroit, and I always have wanted to make the city of Detroit proud of the things I was doing,” he said. “Then when I left Iowa I wanted Iowa to feel proud of what I was doing in Chicago. I’ve always appreciated what sports has done for me. Sports brought me into a world that allowed me to meet people from different backgrounds and share my views and where I came from. I want to carry myself with that in mind and do whatever it is I’m doing to the best of my ability.”