There’s a perception LeBron James, his agent (Rich Paul) and his NBA team (currently the Lakers) are far too intertwined.
This won’t help.
We started talking about the Lakers, who were in a slump. Paul brought up the Nets, saying that they were “the only team that can beat us.” This sounded like a strangely partisan observation for an agent with clients across the N.B.A., especially after all the criticism he had received when bringing Anthony Davis to the Lakers. “I’ve got six guys on the team,” he said, shaking his head. “C’mon.”
Paul obviously overestimated the Lakers, who lost to the Suns in the first round.
But him calling the Lakers “us” is far more interesting.
Paul’s primary client is obviously LeBron, who lifted Paul into the business and is the NBA’s most powerful player. That can create conflicts of interest. Because LeBron wanted Paul-represented Davis to join him on the Lakers, was Paul more likely to deliver Davis to Los Angeles regardless of what was best for Davis?
But at least everyone knows Paul’s conflict of interest. When hiring Paul, Davis knew Paul would be the best agent for getting him out of New Orleans and to LeBron and the Lakers. Don’t confuse the cause and effect. Davis wanted to join the Lakers, and that turned out very well for him.
This also gets outsized attention because Paul is the NBA’s most notorious agent. Any agent with multiple clients is bound to face conflicts. Agents tend to prioritize their higher-earning clients, even when that’s not LeBron. Hopefully, everyone manages these inevitable issues as ethically as possible.
That’s not always easy, and Paul’s conflicts of interest should receive scrutiny. As should all other agents’.
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