The Athletic conducted an anonymous survey of 20 NBA agents, and one of the things they asked them was who's the best player in the NBA. The overwhelming answer to the question was LeBron James. That's not surprising. The interesting part is that most of the agents felt the need to point out they don't really like LeBron but had to give him props. Why don't they like him? We got the answer after the next question. "LeBron James. Thoughts?"
Those that praised him pointed out LeBron's longevity and his philanthropy. His performance in the bubble took that appreciation to another level. A few mentioned his image is a bit too polished, that it doesn't seem authentic. "Not genuine. An obsession with creating a legacy instead of letting the legacy create itself." Then we got to Klutch Sports, and one agent went off.
“But now that they’ve jumped into the agent game, which the reality is, it’s illegal for a player, particularly if you’re in the state of California, to be licensed to represent talent. Now I know it’s this façade that it’s Rich Paul, but it’s really LeBron who recruits for Rich Paul.”
Anonymous agent, The Athletic
There's a lot more in the article, and I trust the Athletic left it in because this wasn't the only agent who shared that opinion. It has to be pointed out; these were agents talking about a competitor, so everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. Rich Paul is a disruptor of their universe, a guy that can play by different rules because he's LeBron's agent.
But this isn't the first time we've heard these criticisms, and they're not always coming from other agents. Many people covering the league will drop a comment on two in an article and podcasts, implying the connection LeBron has with Klutch is unfair at least, and illegal at worst.
This anonymous agent specifically accused Paul of malpractice, implying several of their clients lost a lot of money because Klutch wasn't performing their job professionally. From his point of view, landing a client is one thing. Performing your job consistently is another.
“Nobody is criticizing what they’re doing. And you have to call out the union. They should be meeting with Rich Paul, saying, ‘What happened here? What happened here? They represent all the players. They all pay the same amount for dues. If Rich Paul were a lawyer, he’d be disbarred five times. But because LeBron is so powerful, there is no accountability. And that’s the only bad part with LeBron. Everything else is great. It’s commendable. It’s progressive. I love it. The part that he’s pushed Rich Paul in this position and these naïve basketball players, that’s pretty egregiously irresponsible.”
Anonymous agent, The Athletic
I'd love to know how many agents would agree at least to some extent with this analyisis. From what I know, Rich Paul has a reputation of getting his clients paid. It may be the case some players didn't get as much as they could've, but I'll bet every agent has a few misses on his resume. Nobody shoots 100% from the free throw line.
Is LeBron leveraging his power through Klutch? Probably. Is this a juiced-up form of tampering? Very likely. Is everyone in the league tampering anyway? Yes. Some may say there's a code Klutch and LeBron are breaking, for instance forcing an Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers while he had two years left on his deal, and that's fair. From all I know about the situation, it seems more likely to be foul play than not.
Anonymous sourcing is a pillar of reporting, particularly when speaking truth to power, and it doesn't get more powerful than LeBron. But when your source has a vested interest, such accusations need to be fully elaborated if you're not going to ask the person to step forward. Which they ultimately should.