Image Credit: Courtesy Klutch Sports Twitter
Rich Paul has been on chill mode so far in 2020. Void of any controversy previously caused by his iconic rise as an NBA super agent.
2019 elevated Klutch Sports Group to prime time player status among sports agencies. So it’s only right that Paul finally smells the roses after orchestrating one of the biggest power moves of the player empowerment era which has also led to the Lakers being back on top of the basketball world.
“I always try to encourage people to believe in themselves,” Paul said in a recent interview. “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.”
Early in his career, Paul was viewed by many on the periphery as simply one of LeBron James’ best friends, and perhaps they didn’t understand what Paul envisioned accomplishing as an entity unto himself with the founding of his agency in 2012.
They all found out in 2019. That’s when Paul and King James put the full power of their union on display for the sports world to see.
First New Orleans Pelican star Anthony Davis signed with Klutch Sports. Rumors of Davis wanting to join LeBron in LA combined with this move was an omen for things to come.
Then came the trade request and the attempted forced trade that fell through, rocked the Lakers locker room, led to Magic Johnson’s resignation and put Jeanie Buss’ leadership into question. After much negotiation and expended emotion, the trade eventually went through, and Davis is now an MVP contender on a championship-caliber squad.
Paul came through for AD and endured the criticisms and tampering accusations along the way. So he also deserves time to reflect on his life. How a 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 with a self-made sports agency.
Paul basked in the glory of Chicago’s NBA All-Star festivities and shared the moment with his entire Klutch Sports Group. The company threw a stunning event on Saturday night in Chicago, not too far from where AD grew up on the South Side.
It was the peak of a weekend-long celebration of their hard work, dedication, and success.
Muhammad Ali shook up the world by defeating Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship just four years after winning at the 1960 Olympics. Paul has done the same in a business that’s designed to keep people of color on the sidelines and as paying customers.
If you were one of those people who vilified LeBron James for 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 second 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 has included Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Nikola Jokic and Harrison Barnes among others.
Current Knicks President 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 more than $35 million in commissions as of January 2019.
The AD deal was the backbreaker. Paul became a threat to the white hierarchy of sports agents who have long dominated the game by keeping the “game of business” separated from the players. Paul not only brings tribal energy to the conversation, but he genuinely cares for his athletes and provides them with the jewels and nuggets for personal and professional growth.
So threatened by Paul’s business savvy and growing control, the NCAA tried to switch up the game plan and reverse some of the diversity inroads Paul has made in the business by implementing the so-called “Rich Paul Rule,” which required agents looking to represent student-athletes to have obtained at least a bachelor’s degree, among other criteria.
It was a rule that in theory would have stopped another young brother like Rich Paul, who didn’t have a degree, from also defying the odds and becoming the king of basketball business.
After much pressure from social media, superstar players of color and social and civil rights groups, the NCAA rescinded the rule, but the point was made very clear; The powers that be don’t want Paul at the table messing up a good thing. Unfortunately for the old regime, it’s too late.
??????????? Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop! They BIG MAD ? and Scared ?. Nothing will stop this movement and culture over here. Sorry! Not sorry. ?✌?
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 6, 2019
According to hoopshype.com, Paul currently sits third among NBA agents in total player salaries. His 22 current players have accumulated $259,757,945 under the Klutch Sports brand. He has an impressive list of superstars that includes James, Davis, Ben Simmons, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Draymond Green, Miles Bridges (2020 NBA Rising Stars MVP) and others.
More are sure to follow because it’s clear that RP gets the job done and is constantly expanding. Period.
He’s officially the new wave and everyone wants to be associated with a winner. In July of 2019, it was also announced that United Talent Agency, one of the top leading representation firms in Hollywood, has teamed up with Paul to create a sports division for the entertainment company.
According to Hoops hype, currently, Jeff Schwartz is the No. 1 ranked agent as far as current player salaries with $426, 379,189. Mark Bartelstein is second at $296,925,026 in salaries produced. After Rich, follows Aaron Mintz ($247,750,821) and Leon Rose ($226,116,309).
According to Forbes, as of September 2019, Paul has negotiated well over $800 million worth of contracts for his clients, earning a hefty commission in the $33 million range.
Those numbers will keep increasing as Simmons signed a five-year, $170 million deal with Philly in July of 2019 and Davis becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021. The Lakers are sure to give him as much money as allowed by the cap — and then some — to keep Davis in L.A. long after LeBron’s retired. A bag in the $153 million range, similar to what they gave LeBron in 2018 would probably get it done.
Klutch Sports Is The Future
Don’t forget Paul’s expanding NFL client list that recently snared Ohio State Defensive end Chase Young, a generational talent who’s expected to go in the Top 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
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 38 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.”
That’s some pretty heady stuff 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 heads, that Paul had no experience, that they’d fall flat on their faces, that the hubris of them attempting to take on the establishment was laughable.
Well, who’s laughing now?