Rich Paul has become one of the most powerful agents in sports thanks to his relationship with LeBron James, and there are others in the industry who do not approve of the empire the duo has built.
Ben Standig and Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic anonymously surveyed NBA agents to get some of their thoughts on LeBron, and one took the opportunity to unload on James, Paul and Klutch Sports. The agent criticized the arrangement LeBron and Paul and essentially said LeBron is illegally recruiting clients for Klutch Sports.
“The worst thing that LeBron is doing is forcing this power with Rich Paul and what that is, in terms of, he’s a player, but he has prowess in the media space,” the agent said. “His company Spring Hill, that’s awesome. Doing the movies and all of the projects. That’s so commendable. I love that. But now that they’ve jumped into the agent game, which the reality is, it’s illegal for a player, particularly if you’re in the state of California, to be licensed to represent talent.
“Now I know it’s this façade that it’s Rich Paul, but it’s really LeBron who recruits for Rich Paul. So it’s almost like they’re trying to control AAU at the NBA level.”
The agent went on to say that he understands why clients who idolize James would sign with Klutch Sports, and he compared the situation to when players wanted Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk to represent them. However, the agent said there have been some “massive casualties” for players who have been mismanaged by the agency. Two players who were mentioned were Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Nerlens Noel.
“I’m starting to hear some rumblings that they might be overloaded. Because you can’t have this level of expectation for a client and service all of these guys. Ben Simmons. Garland. I know this as an agent, you can’t service them all at this level,” the agent said. “You can seduce them, but you can’t service them all, at that level with what they say they’re doing. Nerlens Noel. Norris Cole. Shabazz Muhammed. They lost $80 million in Detroit. This is real talk.”
Noel, if you remember, took turned down bigger offers to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder two years ago. He has played just 16.1 minutes per game and averaged just 6.2 points in two seasons with the team.
Klutch Sports has certainly grown at a rapid pace, even expanding to other sports outside of basketball. LeBron has obviously made that possible, and bitterness from other agents and agencies is to be expected. Whether or not those agents are right about the ethical issues is a matter of opinion.
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