With a massive 6-foot-10 frame and deep voice, former Georgetown University basketball coach John Thompson was an imposing figure and “my toughest critic,” says David Falk, the renowned sports agent who represented Thompson.
“I know I was afraid of him,” said a smiling Danielle Cantor, executive vice president and partner of Falk Associates Management Enterprises (FAME), which was co-founded by Falk.
As Cantor rose through the ranks at FAME, Falk made sure she had a seat at the table whenever they met with Thompson. Eventually, Cantor knew she had gained Thompson’s trust when at the end of one meeting, he turned to her and asked, “What do you think?”
It was yet another moment in her trailblazing career when Cantor realized she was indeed making progress in the male-dominated sport industry. Now, as the first female National Basketball Players Association-certified player agent, Cantor enjoys sharing stories about her journey with young women and men who want to work in sports.
Cantor and Falk, who has long been recognized as one of the sports industry’s leading figures and most talented innovators, visited Falk College Oct. 26 and spent more than three hours speaking with Department of Sport Management students from classes taught by Michael Veley, director and chair of the Department of Sport Management, and professors Dennis Deninger, Dave Meluni, and Kevin McNeill.
Their main theme was women in sports, but they touched on a variety of topics, including Thompson’s impact on Falk (“He was the most influential man in my life,” Falk says); how Cantor landed a four-year, $85 million contract for her first client (Malcolm Brogden) that doubled the contract he was previously offered; and, of course, Falk’s most famous client, Michael Jordan.
“That’s what it’s all about, being able to share real-life experiences and real-life stories as opposed to just theories that you read about,” she added.
Cantor said she was impressed with the students’ questions and one of them came from Samie Haber ’24, who is interested in ecommerce and digital merchandising with a sports apparel company and asked Cantor for advice on how to get started as a female in the business world.
“She said it’s about connections and told me to have Professor Denninger give me her email and she would help me with those connections, which is very helpful,” Haber said. “It was interesting to hear about her experience from a woman’s perspective, and I feel like together they were able to provide a lot of insight for us.”
In 2017, Sports Business Journal wrote a “Game Changers” feature story on Cantor that highlighted her ascent to the NBA’s first female player agent. Cantor said she hadn’t paid much attention to the gender issue, but that story helped her understand her impact on the industry.
“That was a turning point in that a lot of work that I would do after that became about helping young women in sports and making sure there are more opportunities for everyone to be in positions of power,” Cantor said.
“My biggest takeaway was that women are getting more involved in sports, and I think that’s very important because of how things were in the past and we want to progress into the future,” Haber said.
In 2010, a gift from Falk and his wife, Rhonda S. Falk ’74, established the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University. Falk, the co-founder of FAME who earned his economics degree from Syracuse University, says he enjoys returning to campus and engaging with the future leaders of the sport industry.
“I’m really proud of what Michael Veley has created over the last 18 years (with sport management),” Falk said. “It’s a unique program because it’s structured to be experiential, like with what we had today (with the presentations). We have amazing professors, the quality of the students is so high, and I’m so proud that it’s something that bears my name.”
Visit the Falk College website to learn more about the academic programs offered by the Department of Sport Management.