Basketball stars like LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Stephen Curry pull down bigger salaries than most of their peers because of their ability. But a handful of NBA players will be hanging on to more of their money in the suspended season because of their agents.
A few agents’ foresight in negotiating a unique payment clause for approximately 20 clients means those NBA players stand to collect a larger percentage of their salaries before the league turns off the financial faucet.
LeBron James has an ‘all you can get’ contract
Marc Stein of The New York Times reported this week that NBA owners have not assured players they’ll receive paychecks beyond the one that landed in their accounts Tuesday. Because the standard NBA contract calls for payments twice a month over the full year beginning late in the fall, most players have received less than half their season salary despite the season being more than 75% complete.
However, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving are among approximately 20 players whose agents negotiated payments on a shorter schedule. The so-called “all you can get” strategy spreads the paychecks out over six months rather than 12, meaning that those stars have already pocketed more than 90% of their salaries even if the NBA doesn’t resume play due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The league and the NBA Players Association are discussing holding a quarter of all salaries in escrow while clarifying how collective bargaining agreement wording handles the possibility of the currently suspending season being shut down.
The small group of players on the different payment plan would be negotiating from a position of power should the NBA attempt to claw back some money.
One agent used the tactic more than others did
At least four other agents negotiated the accelerated payments on behalf of clients including Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Blake Griffin. But one agent stood out above the rest. Rich Paul, who runs the Klutch Sports agency, is believed to have gone the “all you can get” route with nine clients including LeBron James, John Wall, Darius Bazley, and Miles Bridges.
Paul, 38, opened his agency in 2012 and owes much of his success to James, whom he met in 2002. He began working in 2006 with Leon Rose, who negotiated James’ first contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers and is now in charge of basketball operations for the New York Knicks.
When Paul left Rose’s office to form his own company, James followed him. Paul negotiated James’ return to the Cavaliers in 2014.
LeBron James’ agent had to fight to stay certified
You know a sports figure has made it big when there is a rule named after them. The NCAA passed legislation last summer that was quickly dubbed the “Rich Paul Rule” ((( https://www.si.com/college/2019/08/12/ncaa-agent-requirements-bachelors-degree-rich-paul-rule ))) since he was among agents affected.
The NCAA rule required all agents advising or representing players to meet several requirements, including holding a four-year college degree. Paul and several others challenged the rule and succeeded in having it amended.
Now, agents lacking a degree can advise and represent college athletes as long as they are certified by the National Basketball Players Association and complete a liability insurance exam.