Rich Paul: LeBron’s Agent Who Orchestrated Cleveland Return

    lebron james returns to cleveland in one of the most dramatic free agency moves in nba history.

    It’s a smart move in every way. The Cavs are now the betting favorites to win the 2015 NBA Championship, with James surrounded by a core of young talent. the sports illustrated essay lebron used to announce the move is a love letter to northeast ohio, and should erase the stain of “the decision” from 2010. furthermore, the structure of the deal (two years, $42.1 million dollars) is a stroke of genius from a financial point of view.

    but little is known about the man who orchestrated the comeback, rich paul, lebron’s 33-year-old agent.

    according to adrian wojnarowski of yahoo! Sports, Paul had been pushing for LeBron to return to Cleveland for years, calling it “something of a mission.” After James opted out of the final year of his contract with Miami, Paul encouraged the Cavs to “offer restrictions on the drafting of James.” Cleveland responded by making an immediate trade to clear enough cap space to sign LeBron.

    while lebron was on the road with his family during the early stages of free agency, it was paul who met with a handful of nba suitors.

    Moments before James made his announcement public, Paul was the one who called Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to say, “Dan, congratulations. Lebron is coming home,” Wojnarowski reports.

    paul is also from northeast ohio. He met James at an airport, of all places, before most people had heard the name LeBron James.

    chris broussard told the whole story in his espn magazine profile on paul in 2012.

    James was 17 and Paul was 21 when they met. LeBron, on his way to Atlanta to watch the NCAA Final Four, saw a man, Paul, wearing a pale blue Warren Moon Houston Oilers jersey.

    by broussard:

    “small and skinny, but with a booty twice his size, paul, then 21, walked out the door in his authentic warren moon, complete with white air force 1s with red soles and the red swoosh. james and his friends did two takes. eventually, james approached the little man and asked where he got his t-shirt. turns out paul, a cleveland native, sold them out of the trunk of his car.”

    They’ve been friends ever since.

    after james was recruited, he hired paul with king james inc., not knowing what position paul would fill, just wanting to grow with him.

    paul eventually helped form lrmr, james’ management and marketing group, along with lebron’s childhood friends maverick carter and randy mims (the acronym lrmr stands for lebron, rich, maverick, and randy). Despite not attending college, Paul landed a job with Leon Rose and the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) when James switched agents and signed with CAA in 2009.

    Then in 2012, Paul left CAA to start Klutch Sports Group, signing James as his first client. Klutch Sports now represents several other NBA players, including Eric Bledsoe and James’ new teammate Tristan Thompson.

    In four short years, LeBron James has gone from hero to villain to hero again. People sing James’s praises for his homecoming, but they should sing Paul’s too, because without him, LeBron’s talents would probably be somewhere other than Cleveland.

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