Rich Paul Blasts Rumor That Lakers' LeBron James 'Owns a Large Stake in Klutch'

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 31, 2021

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 28: Maverick Carter, NFL Draft Prospect, Devonta Smith and Rich Paul pose after the game between the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers on April 28, 2021 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Agent Rich Paul debunked the longstanding rumor that LeBron James owns part of his Klutch Sports business, saying it's an attempt to hold back his career. 

“So why is it that LeBron has to own Rich Paul’s business?” Paul told Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker. “Let me tell you what that’s about. That’s all putting things in the atmosphere to discourage, right? That’s all they want to do.”

Paul, who represents James and several other high-profile NBA stars, started Klutch Sports in 2012 as an independent venture. With his longtime friend James as his top client, Paul has accumulated increasing influence around the league and established himself as perhaps the NBA's most powerful agent.

NBA rules prohibit players from representing colleagues or owning a stake in a business that represents players. The league looked into James' involvement in Klutch and found no evidence of any behind-the-scenes involvement by the four-time NBA MVP.

"LeBron does not and cannot have any ownership in Klutch. He refers to Klutch as 'us' because Klutch is his family. It's a dumb rumor, and while it doesn’t bother Rich I don’t think anyone paying attention is confused about why his detractors say it," adviser Adam Mendelsohn said.

While James may not currently own any stake in Klutch, it's unquestionable that Paul and his company have benefited from the relationship. The Paul-James duo has come to define the modern relationship between player and agent, with the power brokers helping earn players more rights than at any point in NBA history.

James and Paul at the forefront of the current player empowerment movement. While some argue increasing player power is bad for the game, it's likely more accurate to say that the people who are used to being in charge simply don't enjoy giving up some of their power.

It's possible James winds up taking on a leadership role at Klutch following his retirement from basketball. He's arguably the most powerful force in all of American sports; Klutch can and likely will use his presence long after his playing days.

That said, attempting to tie James into the everyday workings of Klutch could be an attempt to downplay Paul's work to become a game-changing agent.