Eyes on the Prize

Malibu attorney Ed Pilot, now a certified NBA agent

Attorney Ed Pilot has put his legal deftness to use in and out of the courtroom for over three decades. The Malibuite has helped clients become U.S. citizens thanks to his knowledge of immigration law, represented individuals in personal injury cases and, 20 years ago, Pilot worked as an agent for professional hockey players. 

Pilot, a lifelong basketball fan, dribbled his legal skills into another court earlier this year. He became a certified National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) agent. He said his interest in law and love for sports work well together in the NBA player representation field.

“My passion in sports has always been basketball,” Pilot said. “It is quite an undertaking.”

The lawyer was a fan of the UCLA Bruins and Los Angeles Lakers basketball teams while growing up and coached a few of his son Justin’s youth squads. Pilot was involved in his son’s sports life as a Malibu High School basketball player before the younger Pilot graduated last spring. The father is just as supportive of his daughter Sophia, a junior Malibu High tennis player. 

Pilot is now among over 200 individuals accredited to provide representational services to NBA players by conducting individual contract negotiations with NBA teams. 

The experienced attorney took the test to become an NBA agent in January after studying the NBPA’s 500-page collective bargaining agreement and familiarizing himself with the ins and outs of how to represent a player in contract negotiations with teams and other tasks. Pilot found out he aced the three-hour exam the next month. In March, around the time the novel coronavirus epidemic began to sweep the globe, Pilot, along with some advisers including Barry Mendelson, an experienced past NBA executive, put together the Pilot Sports Group. 

Pilot also became a validated FIBA agent this year in order to represent professional basketball players outside the U.S. and wants to eventually be a certified WNBA agent also. Despite the new hoops titles, Pilot, known for his successes as an immigration lawyer, hasn’t dribbled away from his law work with his firm, Edward W. Pilot APC, in Beverly Hills. 

“I’m not quitting my day job,” he said.

The hoops fan is watching more basketball than ever before as he seeks to gain his first client: “A lot—as is reflected in my cable bill,” Pilot said. 

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made Pilot’s shot at being a basketball agent an easy layup. 

“It has presented challenges to the world of basketball,” he said, noting the coronavirus’ spread also made things difficult for his law practice because courtrooms were closed for multiple months. “I don’t let that get me down. I figure out something to do every day.” 

Under normal circumstances, Pilot would have spent the spring and summer attending college, NBA G League and top-flight amateur basketball games to watch talented players and let them and their families know why he would be a good agent for them when they decide to declare for the annual NBA draft or pursue other pro hoops opportunities. 

“I’m old school,” Pilot said. “To me, there is no substitute for face time—handshake, fist bump—human interaction counts.”

Now, he does the wooing via email and social media. 

“I like to let the athlete know I’m out there, but my preference is to keep the communication between the designated parent and myself. I want to let the young man focus on his craft and school and not interfere with that,” he said. “If they give the indication, they like the occasional shout out on social media or a DM—’Hey, I saw your game’ or “That was a big win’—I will do that.” 

Pilot said that though a large share of NBA players are represented by bigger agencies, he believes there is room for an agent like himself who works hard, thinks on his feet and treats others with respect. 

“All the legal knowledge I have accumulated over the years and the fact my parents taught me right from wrong and how to treat people will go a long way,” he said. 

Pilot’s expertise with international law can help a client from another nation have a smooth transition to America if he were signed by an NBA club, and help USA players move abroad.

“I can help an American-born player move overseas,” Pilot noted. 

In the comment section of a story published earlier this year announcing Pilot had become a basketball agent, commenters praised the lawyer.

Winta Mehari called him the best attorney in Los Angeles. 

“Ed knows the law inside out,” Mehari wrote. “He’s very empathetic and has ‘payed it forward’ many times.” 

James Nicholls wrote, “A very fine man. He is thoughtful and careful. I am a client.” 

Pilot one day hopes to turn Pilot Sports Group over to Justin, currently a student at the University of Oregon, and his law practice, Edward W. Pilot APC, over to Sophia—but for now, he envisions having around a half-dozen clients playing in the NBA, G League and overseas within the next two years. 

The agent keeps in regular contact with a few possible clients who are expected to become eligible for next summer’s NBA draft after their seasons end. 

“I hope that loyalty and consistency will count for something,” Pilot said.