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Volume 26 No. 174
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Rich Paul's Klutch Sports Makes Unique Mark On NBA Landscape

Paul and LeBron James first sent waves across the NBA when they left CAA back in '12
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Paul and LeBron James first sent waves across the NBA when they left CAA back in '12
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Paul and LeBron James first sent waves across the NBA when they left CAA back in '12
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Agent Rich Paul's Klutch Sports Group is "hardly the richest or biggest agency handling NBA talent," but it has become the "most discussed, admired, loathed, ridiculed, daring and feared operation in the business," according to a cover story by S.L. Price of SI. There has been a "constant" buzz around Paul since '12, when he and LeBron James "rattled the league’s power structure by bolting" CAA and establishing Klutch. Nothing signaled Klutch’s "raw challenge to the status quo more" than in January, when Pelicans C Anthony Davis told the team not only that he would not sign a five-year, $240M super-max extension, but that he also wanted to be traded. For all the "high stakes, agentry is at base a service job, and Paul came to it with none of the usual credentials -- no law, business or even undergrad degree." But it is "striking how many who have come into Paul’s orbit." No one "doubts that he can be ruthless and calculating." But he does so while "posing question after question, never fronting an expertise he doesn’t possess." Paul’s every move "bristles with a uniquely cutting edge," making him the "go-to agent for the aggressively restless player."

NO PANIC: Davis' move "seemed an iteration of player empowerment that few saw coming," so the failure of any deal to materialize by the Feb. 7 trade deadline "read like the ultimate humiliation." But there is "no sign of panic" with Paul. In the weeks after Davis’ trade bid failed, Paul signed two "splashy clients" in '19 NBA Draft prospect Darius Garland and Warriors F Draymond Green. Garland said, “I just looked at it like, ‘That’s my agent and he’s just shaking the entire league right now.’ There’s no other agent that is a household name, on every single sports show. I’ve never seen that before.” Price notes Klutch’s stable can "sometimes seem like an edgy team unto itself, with players more loyal to agent ... than to coach or GM or owner, posing a true threat to sports’ traditional franchise-based divisions." Other agents "pitch money and stardom and, yes, the chance to control one’s own fate." But Paul "seems to articulate what Green calls an 'understanding and really, the priority, that he makes for players to control their own destiny'" (SI, 6/17 issue).