Changing The Game
LeBron: ‘We don’t sit back and say, let’s change the game, we just try to think outside the box.’
by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista
When LeBron James announced in September he would leave CAA and sign with long-time friend and business associate Rich Paul’s newly formed Klutch Sports Management, my question wasn’t why, but when? When had the basketball phenom and his close circle envisioned a plan to not only manage all business and personal operations from within—but to start by learning from the best?
“It started when I decided to fire my agent Aaron Goodwin, and I decided to start my own marketing company and it kind of went from there,” James tells SLAMonline. “Those are the guys I believed in and I believed we could do some great things. I had them start reading a lot, learning a lot about the game, about what it takes to be a businessman as well. I’m happy to be in the position now where I could say they’ve done some great things and they’re gonna continue to grow.”
James could have easily bestowed promotions and high-power titles on his childhood friends. Instead, they first learned the industry from the inside-out, including positions held by Maverick Carter at Nike and Rich Paul at Creative Artists Agency.
“They’ve learned a lot, absolutely, being around great companies like CAA and Nike and Coca Cola Brand. Those are some great companies that you can learn from that’s built so many great things, you know McDonald’s as well. They’ve learned a lot, they’re going to continue to learn and I’m still learning too as well—both on and off the floor,” James says.
As James and Carter established LRMR Marketing and Branding, in which the Rs represent Randy Mims and Rich Paul, James showed his desire to expand his brand, transcending the sport that made him a worldwide star. The firm recently partnered with Fenway Sports Management, under the Fenway Sports Group, which includes the Boston Red Sox, NESN television network and Liverpool FC.
On the basketball front, Paul was learning the ins and outs of the business behind the game working as an agent at CAA. Paul, who represents NBA players Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, now has a three-time MVP to headline his newly formed agency.
I asked James if he thinks he and his friends have changed the game by legitimately shifting the balance of power in the industry?
“We don’t know,” says James. “We don’t sit back and say, let’s change the game, we just try to think outside the box. We control our own destiny, I control my own destiny, so why not do it with the people that I grew up with or I believe in. Give them an opportunity, when I’m done, they’ll still be able to make things happen.”
And was this the plan all along? Even before LeBron signed with his first agency, did he and his friends envision the potential opportunities?
“No, no, I mean we all knew we had a great opportunity,” says James. “They knew I had a great opportunity because of my skill level and my talents. As we continued to grow as men throughout the years, we felt like this was the best thing to do.”