When you’re LeBron James, the media scrutiny and discussions about you are bound to get crazy. Even Kevin Durant acknowledges that and he already hates the media.
That’s why when James, along with teammates Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and agent Rich Paul, sat courtside at a Duke vs. Virginia game last week, people took it to mean something more than just watching two of the best teams in college basketball go at it.
Duke boasts one of the best NBA prospects in years in freshman Zion Williamson who is the consensus number one overall pick and seems poised to have an incredible career in the pros, as well. When James (who has been listed as a comparison for Zion) and Paul appeared at the game, many thought it was a “recruiting trip” to sign the young star as another Klutch client.
James and Paul both put those rumors to bed, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
“A recruiting trip? I didn’t talk to anybody,” James told ESPN.
“They’re only saying that because it’s Rich. When Shaq came to see me play in high school, when A.I. came to see me play in high school, they weren’t saying it was a recruiting trip then. But because it’s Rich Paul and LeBron, now it’s a recruitment trip.
“Now Rich is a threat to everybody, and they look at it and they want to keep trying to jab my agent and jab my friend. And what is he doing that’s wrong? They don’t say that about no other agent when other guys go see [players]. They don’t say that about no other agent, but my guy because he’s a threat.
“And he’s African-American, too. Throw that in there.”
“All I care about is respect,” Paul told ESPN. “That’s all. We were just enjoying a basketball game. Didn’t talk to nobody. Didn’t do anything or nothing. But it’s an issue when you see several media people shining a light on it as if it’s a negative thing. But when I was one of his homeboys, one of his ‘posse’ and we went to see Steph Curry in Detroit (for a Davidson-Wisconsin NCAA tournament game in 2008), nobody said anything. Nobody said nothing.”
Paul then discussed the coded language he has heard directed toward him throughout his career.
“Think about it from this perspective,” he said. “On one end, you got a ‘posse.’ Or they’re ‘leeches.’ Years ago it was leeches or ‘hanger-ons.’ They’re OK when they can call you that, but they’re not OK when it’s a CEO and you have the biggest superstar in the world supporting somebody that he trusts to do his business off the court and just who happens to be a friend.”
Paul has been in the news over the past few weeks as his other big-time client, Anthony Davis, requested a trade out of New Orleans. While the circumstances around that have been strange, it’s not the first time a player has demanded a trade and it’s not the first time an agent’s connections have been major influences on the decision.
Put another way: did anyone (outside of us bitter Lakers fans) accuse Aaron Mintz of doing what’s worse for his client, Paul George, when the OKC Thunder forward didn’t take a meeting with the Lakers? Two of Mintz’s clients (D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle) had been spurned by the Lakers; no one drew that connection the way they do with Paul. How many basketball fans even know who Kyrie Irving, who threatened season-ending surgery if he was not traded by the Cavaliers, is represented by?
You can draw your own conclusions of why that may be.