Rich Paul is a man with a clear mission and isn’t going to bow down to the NBA’s old way of doing things. As one of the most focused sports agents in the game today, Paul, a compatriot of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, commands boardrooms with the precision of a no-look pass from the King.
Paul was profiled in Sports Illustrated in a feature story that revealed the agent has been steering New Orleans Pelicans standout Anthony Davis‘ career for the future. When it came out that Davis was refusing to take his talents to the Boston Celtics, the piece shows that Paul had a hand in that decision.
Of course, buzz has been a Rich Paul constant since 2012, when he—along with bestie LeBron James—rattled the league’s power structure by bolting Creative Artists Agency and establishing Klutch. It was easy, at first, to dismiss him as a King James tool, yet each new client (Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, Ben Simmons and now 25 others) and brokered contract ($624.8 million and counting) increased Paul’s clout. And nothing signaled Klutch’s raw challenge to the status quo more than last January, when Davis told New Orleans not only that he wouldn’t sign a five-year, $240 million super-max extension with the team this summer, but also that, with a year-and-a-half left on his contract, he wanted to be traded—and Paul made the demand public.
Coming just 10 days before the trade deadline, with prime Davis suitor Boston sidelined by complex contract rules until summer, the maneuver walked and quacked like a demand to send Davis to the rudderless Lakers and, more to the point, James’s desperately welcoming embrace. It was also seen as one of the most naked power moves in recent memory. “We cannot,” Charles Barkley said on TNT, “have players and agents colluding to stack super teams.”
Paul’s Who? Me? protestations aren’t very convincing and, in truth, he doesn’t try that hard. He claims no control over L.A.’s personnel decisions and takes umbrage at the suggestion that he’d send Davis—still, for the moment, a Pelican—into a less than ideal situation to help the man who changed his life and made him rich.
“Did you say that to David Falk? Would you say that to Arn Tellem?” Paul says of two agents who juggled vast stables of clients without charges of conflict of interest. “You’re only saying that because you feel like, ‘Well, Rich wouldn’t be in this position without LeBron,’ right? My thing is: Take LeBron off the Lakers. Are the Lakers not a great destination for an arguably top-two player that went to Kentucky and won a national championship, signed with Nike? For a team that’s had centers from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Shaq?
The entire profile is a fascinating read and Paul, who is angling for Davis to come to Los Angeles for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with his fellow Ohioan in King James, has designs for the 26-year-old to have a long and fruitful career.
Most telling regarding Paul’s power and influence is him saying that even if the Celtics traded for him, they wouldn’t play beyond the contract that he has now and that he doesn’t intend to sign a supermax deal until he’s done with his final year.
Power moves, indeed.
Check out the full profile here.
Read below to see some of the reaction from NBA Twitter.