Top 15 Most Influential Power Brokers in Sports Right Now
The business aspect of sports can often be just as fascinating as the product we see on the courts, fields and ice. What goes on behind the scenes usually serves as a precursor to some of the biggest storylines that take place in the public eye.
Power brokers are people who help shape the industry. They can be agents, managers or even guys who don't have official titles. These are the people that directly influence athletes, and because of that, popular culture undergoes change as well.
In our evaluation of the most influential power brokers in the world of sports today, we decided to leave commissioners and the media off the list.
Instead, we decided to focus on those who have changed the landscape of sports. Taking all of that into account, here now are the 15 most influential power brokers.
When LeBron James took over the world of professional basketball in 2003, he brought a few friends along with him to help ensure that his takeover was everlasting.
One of James' closest confidants was Maverick Carter. Carter is one of LeBron's business partners. He runs a management company called LRMR Management, and through his various dealings, he's become a serious power broker in the sports world.
Jason Whitlock—writing for Fox Sports at the time—described Carter as an "undistinguished childhood friend LeBron James put in charge of his global-icon aspirations."
Carter has connections everywhere, and it carries over into multiple industries, as Whitlock described in his profile. That prosperous base allowed him to sign Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel to LRMR before the 2014 NFL draft.
Working with King James and building his own personal brand has given Carter enough firepower to be considered one of the industry's most influential people.
Agents will always be considered some of the most powerful people in sports. They are the ones responsible for connecting with players, coaches and owners, and they make sure that trifecta works without any hitches.
A big chunk of the dollars that pour in to the pockets of the players can be directly attributed to the work of an excellent agent. Scott Boras is one of the very best.
Boras has represented some of baseball's top players over the years, and by doing so, he's helped those people cash in.
Most notably, he was the man who negotiated Alex Rodriguez's two monster deals with the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. When you add up the numbers of both of those contracts, the total is north of $500 million. It should be noted that Boras and Rodriguez don't work together anymore, per Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
According to an article from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, "Scott Boras has negotiated more than $5 billion in major league contracts and built a baseball agency that's the paragon of the industry."
When you're moving around money like that, influence comes with the territory. Boras has been and still is one of the most powerful figures in all of sports.
Over the course of his coaching career, John Calipari has done a lot for the sport of college basketball.
He coached UMass to its first Final Four appearance during the 1995-96 season, he brought Derrick Rose to the University of Memphis, and when he got to Lexington in 2009, he rebooted the Kentucky men's basketball program.
Efforts like that make Coach Cal one of the most powerful people around. That's not to discredit any other wonderful coaches, but Cal's reach and ability to structure these riveting "one-and-done" teams changed the landscape of the game.
The pipeline Calipari has built is a breeding ground for NBA talent. He brings in stars and blends them together in just one season.
Maybe that's why the Cleveland Cavaliers offered him such a lucrative contract in 2014—a contract he would turn down to stay at Kentucky.
Tom Condon is considered to be one of the premier agents around. He's a guy who helped build the impressive football division at the Creative Arts Agency with his vast list of clientele.
Condon represents some of the NFL's brightest stars. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Drew Brees are three of his biggest.
As one of the core members of CAA, Condon doesn't only represent his own stars, he also helps others out when they need his services. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant brought Condon in during his recent round of contract talks, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com.
Condon was a former NFL offensive lineman, so his transition to representing players has a ton of weight behind it. In a piece written by Jarrett Bell of USA Today, it's made abundantly clear that Condon has negotiated some staggeringly profitable deals over the years.
Because he's able to enrich his players and put them in a better financial state, Condon is easily one of the top power brokers we've ever seen.
Most people know William Wesley by his stage name, "Worldwide Wes." As one of basketball's most influential and under-the-radar figures, Wesley has become this mythological legend of sorts.
The formal introduction of Wesley came courtesy of Alex French, who was writing for GQ. French profiled Worldwide Wes and tried to solve the perplexing mystery of what he actually does.
What emerged from the pages of that GQ piece was the fact that Wesley has become one of the sport's biggest power brokers.
We know that Wesley is connected. As the article details, he spent time with Jay Z, Jerry Jones and LeBron James amongst others.
Though the MySpace reference is dated, French sums up what it means to be a part of Wesley's inner circle:
William Wesley is the best MySpace page in the NBA’s universe. Get on his friends list and just like that you’ll be introduced to Le-Bron, D-Wade, Carmelo, Jay-Z, Phil Knight, Michael Jordan. You’ll be connected to heads of industry, politics, and entertainment. You’ll be given a key to the club. You’ll be taken care of.
Wesley may not have an official title like an agent or a manager, but that didn't stop him from going out and becoming one of the most inimitable figures in sports.
Arn Tellem has been around the sports agency business for a long time. He's a vehicle for wealth and has generated fodders of cash for his laundry list of clients.
By RealGM.com's account, Tellem's past and present client list is impressive. His ability to land patrons from multiple sports shows his true value.
On Tellem's Wasserman Media Group profile lies a staggering statistic: "Tellem has negotiated some of the most lucrative and high-profile contracts in National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball history, including over $3.5 billion in client contracts since 2008."
Similar to a lot of the agents we've already spoken about, when dollars like that are flying around, the power that comes with it is real. Power brokers are guys that move the needle. In that regard, Tellem is at the top of his class.
Dr. James Andrews
Normally, a doctor wouldn't be considered to be a power broker. But in the case of renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, he has become the exception.
Most of the major injuries that occur in sports are now synonymous with Andrews' name. Eric Sollenberger of SB Nation explained how the whole phenomenon started in 1985:
In 1985, a young pitcher named Roger Clemens was starting to second-guess the team's diagnosis of a shoulder injury that was causing him a lot of pain and knocking a few miles per hour off of his fastball. Despite reassurances from the club that he could pitch through it, Clemens' agent sent him down to see Dr. James Andrews, an accomplished doctor specializing in minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.
His use of that revolutionary technique at the time led Clemens to spread the word about the good doctor. The rest is history.
Andrews is the most recognized doctor in all of sports. He isn't a power broker in the traditional sense, but considering injuries are a crucial part of the game, Andrews' worth is significant.
New England Patriots and Revolution owner Robert Kraft is a vocal and talented leader of men. He brought the Bill Belichick era into the world, and because of that decision, he changed the way franchises go about their business in today's NFL.
Kraft isn't your basic owner. He's also a powerful and influential figure.
Sports Business Daily ranked him as sport's No. 3 most influential person at the end of 2014. "No owner has more sway in NFL circles than longtime Goodell-ally Kraft," the site explained.
Kraft's connection with Goodell may be strong, but that didn't stop the Patriots owner from calling out the league during the whole "Deflategate" controversy, as Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News brought up.
When he's not running his franchises, Kraft is out in the world being a social magnet. His commercial appeal and success has been unprecedented.
Jay-Z has been cultivating a relationship with the sports world ever since he bought a small stake in the then-New Jersey Nets.
In 2013, Jay sold those shares in order to properly run his agency, Roc Nation Sports. The man who has been seen lounging on the sidelines at Nets games has used his fame and fortune to redefine the business side of sports.
What started out as the company representing Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano suddenly took on a life of its own. Judging by the names featured on Roc Nation's website, this endeavor has been a tremendous success.
Jay's personal brand was the gateway to building an empire. He's helped peel superstars away from their former agencies, and because of that, Roc Nation Sports hasn't looked back. That, my friends, is a power move.
The second heavy hitter to emerge from King James' camp was Rich Paul. Paul became LeBron's agent in 2012, and together, the two longtime two friends stormed the world.
It was Paul who first called Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert right before James told the world he was returning to his home state, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
The agency Paul went out and started—Klutch Sports Group—has managed to bring in some other big names other than James. HoopsHype.com has listed eight current NBA players considered to be under Paul's watch.
If you add up the total dollars each of those guys made, Paul's clients raked in an estimated $53,047,850 this season on the court.
James may be his golden goose, but that hasn't stop Paul from growing the business. He's become a commanding agent who did things his own way.
No matter how he got here, Rich Paul is without question a defining force in sports.
Considering that Phil Knight is in charge of Nike, you can safely assume that he has plenty of pull in the world of sports.
Knight's biggest endeavor outside of his brand has been contributing to the rebirth of Oregon's athletic program. Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News talked about how Knight drastically changed the fate of Oregon's football team leading up to the first College Football Playoff.
"Three of the teams that began the playoff were established football powers: Ohio State, Alabama and Florida State," Carlton writes. "Oregon is on the cusp of joining that group at a rapid pace, fueled by Phil Knight, a former Oregon middle-distance runner who co-founded Nike and serves as the company’s chairman."
Oregon's Nike connections run deep. They've successfully blurred the lines between popular street culture and college athletics.
Having one man—granted, a powerful one—be able to change the perception of a program simply by harnessing the almighty dollar and his brand is unique. When you add all up all of the riveting stuff Knight has accomplished outside of Oregon, what you get is a master power broker in his purest form.
There will never be another Michael Jordan. In terms of impact on and off the court, Jordan is a symbol of success.
He helped redefine the sneaker and apparel industries. Nearly 30 years after its initial release, the Air Jordan line still generates more of a buzz than just about any other shoes in the marketplace.
Jordan not only influences current players and their styles, but sometimes they even sign to his own signature brand. Derek Jeter, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are all prominent Jordan Brand ambassadors.
Michael's reach also extends to the hardwood. He's currently the owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
Jordan's combination of ownership and product sales placed him on the Forbes billionaires list, via Dan Alexander of Forbes, for the first time.
Now that he's crossed into that exclusive club, his stock as a power broker has reached new heights.
Kevin Plank's Under Armor brand isn't Nike. And that's perfectly fine.
Plank's uncompromising belief that he could create an apparel giant has worked out beautifully. Coming from out of nowhere, Under Armour moved from a no-name brand to one of the most coveted in sports.
They inked megastars like Cam Newton, Stephen Curry, Tom Brady and Bryce Harper to separate deals. Focused on making apparel that helps athletes and looks great, Plank has shifted the tectonic plates of the industry and influenced a new generation of brand warriors.
Finding ways to grow in the middle of a world owned by Nike, Adidas and Reebok—amongst others—is tough. But that didn't stop Plank.
"Plank has pushed Under Armour from wannabe to powerhouse with perseverance and by making non-stop, lightening-quick decisions," Bruce Horovitz of USA Today wrote.
Those killer instincts helped Under Armour take over as Notre Dame football's uniform provider in 2014. That was just one more calculated move by the power broker we call Kevin Plank.
Jerry Jones is way more than the turbulent personality you see on TV. He's the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, the most profitable sports franchise in the United States of America, according to Forbes.
He's a master of self-promotion. Jones' has made cameos on hit shows like Entourage, he built a mesmerizing stadium for his beloved Cowboys, and he's done it all while maintaining total control of the franchise.
Jones' tireless work ethic also helped the NFL get back to business during the collective bargaining agreement debacle of 2011. "According to people on both sides of the table, Jones was a driving force in securing the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement between NFL owners and players this week," Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News proclaimed.
Without Jerry Jones, we wouldn't know what a power broker looks like. He's worked his magic for years, touching all facets of the game along the way.
Casey Wasserman's company, the Wasserman Media Group, is a revered.
Described as "a leading sports, entertainment and lifestyle marketing and management agency" on the company's website, Wasserman heads up a business that influences brands, stadiums, athletes and colleges.
There's no certain way to claim someone is the most powerful person in sports. But based on the conglomerate Wasserman runs, one would assume he would be close to the top of that list.
Wasserman's pull is for real—he even has ties to Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, as documented by Brooks Barnes of The New York Times. Clearly, this media mogul has plenty of connections floating around the sports industry.
Unless noted otherwise, all game scores, stats and information courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.