In NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s passing, the sports world came together like family.
“I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is—and that’s absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week,” LeBron James said at the first Los Angeles Lakers game after Bryant’s death.
Kansas City doesn’t have an NBA team, but thanks to KU, we are home to members of the NBA family, including athlete manager Hazem Al-Gibaly. Al-Gibaly works closely with former Jayhawk and now Houston Rockets comeback kid Ben McLemore, a friendship that started during their college days in Lawrence.
“A large part of what I do is keep the player on track career-wise,” Al-Gibaly says. This can mean everything from selecting trainers to securing endorsement deals. Read more about the life of the NBA athlete manager and why he chooses to call Kansas City home.
Did you ever see yourself working in basketball?
I enjoyed the sport and being around it and had friends that played, but I was never really a rabid basketball fan. I was more of a business guy who happened to like sports and enjoy the game. Basketball is dynamic. There are a lot of moving parts, and no two days are the same. There are so many circumstances that change with injuries, players and personal coaching.
What are some memorable moments of your career so far?
My proudest moment would be the resurgence of Ben “Mac.” And there have been a lot of cool moments, ones where you kind of look around and pinch yourself. We used to vacation with LeBron James, [his agent] Rich Paul and more NBA family in Canada every summer, and I learned a lot from them. Rich and LeBron’s business manager, Maverick Carter, are guys who grew up with LeBron. Carter helped LeBron negotiate a stake of ownership of Liverpool FC, which is one of the largest soccer clubs in the world. They’re producing movies and have their own production company in Hollywood. To kind of peek behind the curtain is really cool.
You travel all the time—why do you still choose to call Kansas City home?
I just really enjoy Kansas City. I think it’s a hidden gem. And I think the more I travel, the more I appreciate it. It’s a central hub to everything. I have a hectic kind of job, so it’s nice to be able to have a home base that’s a little more relaxed.
Kansas City Favorites
“It’s a great place to destress and detox after a long trip or between day-to-day business pressures. They have these amazing saunas where you can play your own music, or you can do IV therapy and yoga classes.”
“My favorite barbecue in the city. I had my cousin from the United Arab Emirates come into town a couple months ago and I was like, ‘I have to take you here.’”
“I imported a vintage truck from the south of France and had it fully restored and converted into a coffee truck. And the thought behind it wasn’t to just make a coffee truck but to treat it as a vintage piece of art.”