A Former NBA Player Is Selling Real Estate in Seattle
A gym is a nosy place Meeting with a real estate agent, but in Solomon Alabi’s case, it makes perfect sense. The former center of the Toronto Raptors not only discovered a serious basketball scene after retiring at the Washington Athletic Club, a posh hangout for Seattle power players along Sixth Avenue, but also found a second career.
Solomon slides his six-foot-tall frame into a booth at HOSTY’s Sports Bar, one of the club’s downtown restaurants, and explains on a recent Tuesday afternoon how a man who once guarded LeBron stumbled across the countertops on house tours as a real estate agent for Realogics bowed Sotheby’s International Realty in Seattle.
In 2015, Solomon settled in town after his wife Briana got a job in Nordstrom’s purchasing department. By this point, Solomon had already transitioned from a short-lived NBA career to a wandering Hooper life overseas. The native Nigerian retired from basketball three years later. He was tired of spending so much time without his growing family – he and Briana were expecting their second daughter.
The couple would need more space than their downtown Seattle apartment could offer. This is how the Alabis had their first experience of looking for an apartment. It wasn’t the breeze Solomon expected; It turned out that those one-year international contracts weren’t enough to get a loan. The couple instead relied on Briana’s performance to secure funding for a home in Shoreline. Solomon was a little surprised by the experience. The NBA hadn’t prepared its young millionaires for the ins and outs of the real estate game, at least not when it was in the league. Player agents often took care of their real estate investments. “And a lot of athletes sometimes can’t rely on their agents or managers,” notes Solomon.
As he pondered the next section of his life, Solomon heard through the athlete’s vine that the Washington Athletic Club was a good place to play pickup hoops with ex-internationals and Division 1 college players to ease that competitive itch . The club recruited him to play for his travel team against enemies in San Francisco and New York City. In 2019, Solomon helped lead the squad to a national title; he can proudly display a banner with his name and the rest of the list above the WAC court.
But Solomon also valued the WAC’s longstanding status as the nexus of power in Seattle, the kind of place where CEOs meet in the sauna. In this province of successful bankers and brokers, Solomon met Stephen Saunders, a longtime local real estate agent who encouraged Solomon to pursue his burgeoning interest in the field. Solomon accompanied him on house tours and watched him talk to customers and about real estate
Solomon would complete Coldwell Banker Bain’s eight-week virtual real estate agent apprenticeship in 2020 and shortly thereafter help some old downtown neighbors purchase a three-bedroom condominium in Kenmore. He later also closed a deal on a $ 1 million estate in Des Moines. His secret? Keeping a cool head even in a hot market. “It takes [enduring] so much mental pressure to be a top athlete and I can feel that mentality that I can transfer to real estate, ”he says.
Solomon’s combination of skill and size made him a sought-after candidate who came from Nigeria. An NBA-sponsored Basketball Without Borders trip to the US helped him stand out in the high school recruiting round. He would eventually sign up to Florida State University, where he played for three years before being drafted into the second round of the 2010 NBA draft (he recently completed his bachelor’s degree online).
But professional basketball is the rare court that does justice to the estimated 3,000 seven-foot players around the world. Cars, planes, restaurants, doors – all not so accommodating from Solomon’s point of view. One of the things that sold him in the Shoreline house was the bathroom. The shower head was high enough that it could stand directly under it.
The physical side of home shopping can indeed be challenging. Solomon’s knees are sometimes almost level with countertops, and Seattle’s “snug” traits often test his torso flexibility. “Some of them cost a million dollars, but I have to duck every basement,” he says. Still, there are advantages to testing the dimensions of a property. “I jokingly use my height. I say, ‘Hey, look, the ceilings are very high. If I can stretch my arms, you can start! ‘”
It can get tiresome to talk about his massive stature. On a tour of the WAC after lunch, almost everyone brings it up on Solomon who, always sociable and patient, does not reveal his inner side eye. As he walks to a series of elevators on his way out, a group behind him whispers about his size. The next question is usually inevitable: do you play basketball?
Solomon has been having a lot of fun with it lately. “No,” he’ll say, a little cunning, a little defiant. “I’m a real estate agent.”