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2014 Free Agency, Smack / Aug 18, 2014 / 1:00 pm

LeBron’s Agent Contacted Cavs Right After 2010 Decision

LeBron James

LeBron James (Andrew Weber, USATODAY)

Rich Paul, agent and close friend of LeBron James, said in a recent interview he apologized to the Cavaliers organization immediately after The Decision aired on ESPN in the summer of 2010.

In a profile by Joe Drape of The New York Times, Paul explained how he contacted the Cavaliers immediately after “The Decision” in 2010 to clear the air:

Not everyone within James’s inner circle had been comfortable with how he left the Cavs four years ago. Paul was among them. The night that James announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach,” Paul called Chris Grant, then the Cavs’ general manager.

“There is no easy way to break up with your wife,” Paul said. “I wanted him to know it was a business decision for LeBron, not a personal one. I’m not a regrets guy, but as far as how it went down, I can say our intentions were good. I guess you can say of the outcome, it allowed all of us to grow.”

Even though James was in Miami, Paul attended the Cavs’ next season opener and made a point of visiting the team’s executives. “There was a foundation of trust,” said Griffin, the general manager.

It’s very interesting that Paul kept a line of communication open with the Cavaliers even after LeBron’s departure. It’s a bit unusual when you think about it, especially if a player has no intention of returning to a franchise he just spurned in free agency. This provides additional evidence for those who believe that LeBron was always planning on eventually returning to Cleveland even after Dan Gilbert‘s scathing letter attacked LeBron on a personal level.

Even more interesting than the tidbit above is the origin story of how LeBron and Paul met each other. If you can believe it, it was over some throwback jerseys:

Paul and James first crossed paths in the Akron-Canton Airport as they were about to board a flight to Atlanta.

James, captivated by Paul’s Warren Moon throwback jersey, asked where he got it. It turned out that Paul was selling jerseys out of the trunk of his car and was going to Atlanta to buy more. He gave James his connection in Atlanta, and he told him to drop his name for a discount, and then went on his way.

“It was fate,” Paul said. “I could have missed the plane. I could have taken an earlier flight. I could have not worn the jersey. I could have been having a bad day and not spoken to him.”

When James returned from Atlanta, he called Paul to thank him, and they had the first of many long conversations, which deepened into a friendship and eventually an intertwined future.

Paul initially ventured into the world of representing athletes by learning the ropes from LeBron’s former agent Leon Rose. In 2012, Paul opened his own sports agency called Klutch Sports Group. To no one’s surprise, his first client was LeBron.

Now that LeBron is comfortably settled in Cleveland, Paul has to deal with two other prominent clients he represents: Eric Bledsoe and Tristan Thompson.

Bledsoe remains a restricted free agent without a deal, and there’s no telling when he’ll talk to the Suns again. Meanwhile, Thompson — a teammate of LeBron’s — is due for an extension next summer. It will be interesting to see whether Thompson’s affiliation with LeBron and Paul lands him a lucrative contract as a thank you from Gilbert. We wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

What do you think?

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  • 2cents

    Classy move by Paul when you think about it. Regardless of LBJ’s intention to return or not. Not something the sports agency world is known for. Thanx for the interesting inside story.