On the business side, the established NBA entities, brokers and “powers that be” have been forced to make room at the table for Rich Paul and a new breed.
If you were one of those people who vilified LeBron James from walking away from the Creative Artists Agency in 2012 and declaring Rich Paul his agent, how are you feeling today?
When people think of basketball agents, the biggest name that immediately comes to mind is Jeff Schwartz, founder of the world’s third most valuable agency, Excel Sports Management.
Schwartz has negotiated five current deals in the $100 million range for an astounding total of $1.7 billion in contracts. He’s netted $66 million in commissions with a client roster that includes Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Nikola Jokic and Harrison Barnes among others.
Leon Rose is another who has negotiated some massive free agent deals for his clients over the last several years, including Karl-Anthony Towns’ $189 million contract with the Timberwolves and Devin Booker‘s $157 million deal with the Suns.
Mark Bartelstein at Priority Sports and Entertainment is another heavy hitter in the basketball business, earning approximately $35 million in commissions.
Rich Paul has been viewed by many on the periphery as simply one of LeBron James’ best friends, and perhaps they didn’t understand what Paul has been accomplishing as an entity unto himself with the founding of his Klutch Sports agency in 2012.
But with the announcement today that Anthony Davis is seeking a trade and will not re-sign with the New Orleans Pelicans, Paul is about to take center stage in a transaction that could establish the next NBA dynasty coming to dethrone the incredible run taking place in Golden State.
According to Forbes, Paul has negotiated $624.8 million worth of contracts for his clients, earning a hefty commission in the $25 million range.
And with Davis and Simmons’ next contracts on the horizon, along with a few others, the young man who got his start in business selling throwback jerseys as a teenager in Cleveland is poised to soon punch through the $1 billion plateau.
That’s some pretty heady accomplishments for someone who was considered an outsider.
Remember when people laughed at LeBron for firing Leon Rose and hiring Paul as his agent?
They said the kids were in over their head, that Paul had no experience, that they’d fall flat on their face, that the hubris of them attempting to take on the establishment was laughable.
Well, who’s laughing now?
The barriers to becoming one of the top sports agents in the world are formidable. And for a young black man like Paul who’s only 37 years old, to be on that list is beyond amazing.
Klutch is an acronym that stands for Knowledge, Longevity, Understanding, Trust, Commitment, and Honesty.
Those were the principles upon which Paul’s relationship with LeBron, going back to the high school days, was solidified.
When asked about his core values for The Corner Office story segment on the Beats By Dre website, Paul said, “I was taught to have principals, be accountable and have integrity. Growing up, it was about respect and being a man of your word. That’s my style as an agent, it reflects in how I do business. It’s simply me sitting down with the client, giving them my word, and following through.”
Discussing his notable challenges, he said “The biggest challenge is being a young black man. There’s also the challenge of the naysayers who say, “He hasn’t done this” or “He can’t negotiate that”. That’s a part of the business. So you can either do one of two things. You can buy into that or you can continue to push. And that was my thing. I don’t really get into what somebody has to say or doesn’t have to say. All you can do is continue to push. Nobody envisioned me getting to this point. People think this is easy but it’s very difficult to be a basketball agent.”
“I always try to encourage people to believe in themselves,” Paul continued. “I’m a unicorn in the sports agent business. Young, African-American, and didn’t go to a prestigious business school. To make it, I tell people to not only dream big, but achieve big. I was blessed to take the leap at the right time and had success. Complacency is the cousin of satisfaction and I’m never satisfied. I’m more motivated now than ever before.”
Back in the day when they were simply kids with a dream, LeBron and Paul encouraged one another to believe in themselves. That, combined with a healthy dose of hunger, vision, commitment and hard work has opened doors that many could not have imagined.
There’s an insurgency that’s not simply taking place on the basketball court as teams look to topple the Warriors.
On the business side of the game, the established entities, brokers and so called “powers that be” have been forced to make room at the table for a new breed.
And Rich Paul is among those at the head of that class.