Rich Paul has become of the most powerful agents in the NBA via his own abilities, maneuvering and, of course, his close friendship with LeBron James. He believes there is a significant group of athletes that don’t want to work with him, though.
In a wide-ranging interview with The New Yorker’s Isaac Chortiner, Paul discussed the intricacies of being a Black man in a field of agents that is overwhelmingly white. After saying many Black athletes are reluctant to sign with a Black agent, Paul said it was much more the case with their white counterparts:
Paul said, “It’s very difficult for me to represent a white player.” I expressed surprise that this was the case.
“It just is. Look around. There’s very few,” he said. “I represent a player from Bosnia. But, again, he’s international. He looks at it different.”
“So white players who are American don’t want a Black agent?” I asked him.
“They’ll never say that,” Paul answered, cracking a rare smile. “But they don’t. I think there’s always going to be that cloud over America.”
Looking through the list of Paul’s known clients, Nurkic appears to be the only white player in the NBA who is represented by Paul. James is obviously the most well-known of the group, alongside Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Draymond Green, Anthony Edwards and John Wall.
Paul also denied rumors that James holds a secret stake in his agency Klutch Sports Group, which would be a clear violation of NBA rules.
LeBron James, Rich Paul address “The Decision”
The New Yorker piece discusses a number of topics as well, including the infamous “Decision,” which which James seems to be at peace.
The Lakers star said he felt the televised press conference ended being a breakthrough moment for the player empowerment movement:
James himself is unapologetic and believes that “The Decision” helped other athletes take control of their careers. He told me, “You are always going to have people that are not going to agree with something that you do, but at the end of the day they can’t stop you, and can’t stop your path, and can’t stop your journey. I am happy that I was able to fall on the sword for the rest of these athletes, men and women, to be able to feel empowered.”
Paul did take issue with some of the backlash, though, most notably a Bill Simmons ESPN column blaming the fallout on James’ lack of a father figure. Paul’s response
“That’s why I don’t speak to Bill Simmons,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with race, too. He wouldn’t have said that about Larry Bird. He wouldn’t have said that about J. J. Redick. You get what I am saying? ‘The Decision’ ten years ago is the norm today. It’s what everyone wants to do. Kids won’t even decide where they go to college without it being a big production, and Bill Simmons says some s*** like that.”
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