Glenville native breaks industry norms
The National Basketball Association just completed its championship and will conduct its draft of amateur players on June 20th, but these are mere sideshows to the vast underbelly of what transformed one of America’s most popular sports and its culture of business that has long been controlled by non African Americans.
In a league where roughly 95 percent of its players are Black, there is only one African American owner. While many Blacks roam the sidelines as head coaches, an obscure number of Blacks are making decisions as General Managers.
Furthermore the players donning uniforms of 30 NBA teams are being represented by individuals and or agents who are non African Americans. The few Black agents that appear to operate independently often make decisions are in line with the status quo.
Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the history of basketball was represented by David Falk, Magic Johnson had Lon Rosen, Kobe Bryant had Rob Pelinka, all of whom made piles of cash for their clients, but did nothing to influence power or culture.
That was until the greatest current player LeBron James decided to break-up the industry standard model and team up with his childhood friends, namely Glenville native Rich Paul.
The industry scoffed at the idea some nine years ago when LeBron left Leon Rose of Creative Artist Agency and powerbroker ‘World-Wide’ William Wesley in favor of Paul.
Paul cut his teeth in the industry under Rose’s at CAA, but it served as little more than a training ground for him to examine the industry from the inside.
During a wide-ranging rare interview with Sports Illustrated (THE KING MAKER) recently, Paul explained how a by chance meeting with LeBron as a young teen forged a bond beyond friendship and business.
With LeBron wielding his savvy intellect, melting it with his insane basketball acumen, he and Paul collectively have decided how the game beyond the game will be played and on what terms they will be played.
Last Saturday, Paul with no small hand from James orchestrated the trade of superstar Anthony Davis from New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for three players and three draft picks.
Immediately, the Lakers ascended to the favorite status for the 2020 NBA title, thus in a flash putting the Toronto Raptors first title reign on the back burner.
I remember when my friend Noel Foucher had called and told me that his brother Thaddeus Foucher had been fired by his client. The client was Anthony Davis.
Davis joining Paul at Klutch Sports, may have been a bolt for Foucher who has Russell Westbrook among his NBA clients, but it is swiftly becoming a trend for those NBA players who value power and control over the value of a contract.
Warriors star forward Draymond Green has also joined Klutch Sports.
Instead of greeting his clients wearing a Brioni designer suit, Paul is causally outfitted in jeans, but the real connection that Paul brings to the table with these clients is culturally.
He was the son of a drug addict mother and a demanding father who threatened him to finish high school or he “would take him out.”
Like many of us who grow up in inner city communities, infested with drugs and gangs, Paul was not immune to witnessing murder first hand, but most importantly he hasn’t forgotten about it nor where he comes from.
When I first arrived to Cleveland from Los Angeles in 2015, I asked around to see if I could get an interview with Paul, none would even entertain the thought. One Cavaliers announcer whom I ask, urged me to be careful.
Quietly, I wondered, careful of what? Where did he possible think I came from in South Central Los Angeles?
Paul has cast his weight in Los Angeles; he’s already picked up at least one acquaintance that I’ve known for years, but much like the others he too is so guarded that he would not even mention Paul by name.
The bottom line is the circle around Paul might be growing, but it is still sacred.
Paul is currently ranked as the No. 4 agent in all of basketball with 18 clients that include the likes of Eric Bledsoe of Milwaukee, Ben Simmons of Philadelphia and a splattering of other lesser knowns.
However he is No. 1 in power and influence and the shifting of Davis was just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not one client or one team, its two Northeast Ohioans and one dream.
So, what does LeBron James and Rich Paul want?
Al Pacino said it best as his character in Scarface.
“The world Chico and everything in it.”