Over five decades ago, American sociologist C. Wright Mills famously wrote The Power Elite, which asserted that a minute sliver of the population—the elite—held a tremendously disproportionate influence over the decision-making in the military, corporate, and political realms.
Now, you may or may not entirely agree with the validity of Mills’ thesis. But if we apply Mills’ notion to the world of sports, the type of person he had in mind was William Wesley.
Or maybe you know Wesley simply as World Wide Wes.
Likely you don’t know him at all.
But despite his relatively low profile, you can safely bet that all 30 NBA owners are keenly acquainted with Mr. Wesley, and they are keeping a close eye on his movements.
Even if nobody is quite sure what he does or why he is so damn powerful.
Here’s what I gather—through the smoke and mirrors—derived in part from an uncommonly insightful and foreshadowing GQ profile on Wes, as he is affectionately referred to, from three summers ago.
Wesley is like a modern-day sports’ Forrest Gump, magically popping up at championship celebrations from Cowboy Super Bowls to Miami Football National Championships, to Team USA practices in 2004, to the floor during the infamous Malice at the Palace.
But the story really starts in Cherry Hill, N.J., a city of about 85,000, located roughly five miles east of Philadelphia. Wes worked at Pro Shoes, a small sneaker-shop, in the early 1980s, around the same time Leon Rose and Milt Wagner played local prep hoops.
To make a long and convoluted story short, Wes essentially began making friends in high places, following Wagner to Louisville and the NBA, chumming it up with Rick Mahorn, and 2 Live Crew, and ultimately meeting His Airness himself. Michael Jordan.
Later in the ‘90s, Wes offered his considerable expertise and vast network as an aide to Allen Iverson during one of "the Answer's" troubling legal ordeals—his arrest on marijuana and concealed weapon possession.
When Wagner’s son, DaJuan, was lauded as the best high school player in the country, Wes allegedly guided the high-scoring guard to Memphis, to receive tutelage from renowned friend-of-Wes, John Calipari—a recurring theme.
Perhaps Wes’s biggest connection, however, was made around the turn of the century when one LeBron James was bursting onto the national prep scene as the prodigy to top all prodigies.
GQ writes that Wes buttered up Eddie Jackson, a former boyfriend (and ex-convict) of LeBron’s mother, Gloria, gaining access to the King's invaluable inner-circle.
In fact, Wes introduced James to Jay-Z.
According to the GQ piece, Wes moved into an apartment across from James during Lebron's rookie year in 2003. He steered LBJ to agent Leon Rose—yep, the Leon Rose from Cherry Hill, N.J.—when James separated from his original professional agent, Aaron Goodwin.
There are indications that Wes was instrumental in Calipari, and Memphis, signing both Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans.
It wouldn’t be overly surprising to hear Wes had a similar role in recruiting John Wall and Brandon Knight to Kentucky.
But no direct links or wrongdoing has ever been proven. And as far as I can see, no explicit accusations are thrown around.
Gregory Dole, a basketball scout and coach in Brazil, recounts the summer when he came into contact with Wes, through the conduit of Leandro Barbosa—who at the time was a raw, non-English speaking, unknown 20-year-old prospect.
Dole says that in the process of touring the States with Barbosa to introduce him to various NBA personnel people, he and the young Brazilian crossed paths with Wesley.
According to Dole, Wesley took the two out for dinner at a Cleveland fine-dining establishment, where their meal was picked up by none other than Carmen Policy, the former front-office executive of the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.
Throughout the course of the evening, Dole writes, Wes dialed both Michael Jordan and Jay-Z for Barbosa, resulting in the honor of hearing MJ’s voice-mail. And Barbosa sang “Hard Knock Life” for Jay-Z and Beyoncè.
Among many other interesting anecdotes, Dole implies that Wes can demonstrate a short fuse for anyone he isn't friendly with. Dole states that the basketball world string-puller has a deep-seated dislike for Adidas, or as Wesley calls it, “that three-striped shit.”
Basically, though, Wes works behind-the-scenes, yet is always at the heart of them.
His Rolodex seems to be chocked full of a veritable who’s who in basketball—the players, coaches, executives and corporate big-wigs.
What's clear is that Rose, Wesley’s Cherry Hill friend, has represented Wes as an attorney for over two decades, and that Rose’s client list went from low-profile to "my goodness" status pretty quickly early in this decade.
Currently, Rose’s stable of clients includes Carmelo Anthony, Andrea Bargnani, Jonny Flynn, Rip Hamilton, Allen Iverson, and, of course, LeBron James.
The most recent news regarding these various linkages involves newly-tabbed Bulls’ head coach (and current Celtics’ assistant) Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau is a freshly signed CAA client, a highly influential Hollywood talent agency—a firm that features Leon Rose among its agents.
The speculation is that Thibodeau’s CAA signing was a gesture to Wesley, and, as a direct result, to LeBron James.
Obviously, I have no real clue what Wesley’s day-to-day activities are comprised of, what the extent of his influence actually is, or how the NBA “system” is really organized.
What I do know, however, is that World Wide Wes’s sphere of influence appears to be just that—and he is clearly established among the league’s power elite.
I know Wes is rumored to be quite friendly with New York Knicks’ president of basketball operations, Donnie Walsh, and that Walsh was the one who asked LeBron to work out with failed big man Eddy Curry this summer.
I know that as we approach the biggest summer of NBA free agency ever, Wes seems to be the only man around whose ear is more highly-sought than LeBron’s.
And I know that however the blue chips fall this summer, Wes will most likely have been involved.
The rest is just a mystery.
And I think that’s how World Wide Wes likes it.