Rich Paul, LeBron James’ 33-year-old agent and longtime friend, is one of the most influential people in sports.
He orchestrated LeBron’s shock return to Cleveland this summer, holding talks with the Cavs while LeBron was on vacation and negotiating an incredibly smart contract that maximizes his client’s earnings potential in the long term.
Joe Drape of The New York Times wrote a profile of Paul, and it sheds some new light on just how far the agent has come in the past decade.
When Paul was 21 years old he met LeBron, who was still in high school at the time, at the airport in their hometown of Akron. Paul hadn’t gone to college and was trying to get his throwback jersey business off the ground when he ran into LeBron.
James, captivated by Paul’s Warren Moon throwback jersey, asked where he got it. It turned out that Paul was selling jerseys out of the trunk of his car and was going to Atlanta to buy more. He gave James his connection in Atlanta, and he told him to drop his name for a discount, and then went on his way.
‘It was fate,’ Paul said. ‘I could have missed the plane. I could have taken an earlier flight. I could have not worn the jersey. I could have been having a bad day and not spoken to him.’
The two became friends. After LeBron got picked No. 1 overall in the now-legendary 2003 NBA Draft, he hired Paul on a $US50,000 annual salary. Over the years Paul learned more and more about the sports business and went from LeBron’s glorified personal assistant to his full-time agent.
He now represents a handful of NBA players and runs an agency called Klutch Sports Group.
Paul told the NYT that he didn’t just want to be a member of LeBron’s entourage: “LeBron had no obligation to me. I was not entitled to anything. I wanted to be valuable.”
Paul randomly meeting a teenage LeBron James at an airport is certainly a stroke of luck. But what came after — Paul turning himself into a legitimate force in the NBA world — is all Paul.
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