John Wall‘s decision to change agents — he recently left Relativity Sports, where he had been for five seasons, and soon will join Rich Paul’s agency — speaks to the landscape for agents.
It’s not simply a question of an agent getting guys the largest contracts anymore — Wall is in the middle of a max deal and will likely get another one after this. It’s about marketing opportunities, it’s about shoe deals, and it’s about the players’ friends having real power. It’s the model LeBron James set up (Rich Paul is his agent) and Wall told David Aldridge of NBA.com that “his team” of friends was at the heart of his decision to move on.
“Just a decision that I made, just thinking about it with my team,” Wall said earlier in the week. “The people I was with have been a great partnership the five years I was with them. They did a lot of positive things for me. It was just a situation where I felt me and my team wanted to go in different ways with how I wanted to build my team.”
Wall wants what LeBron James — and, a generation before both of them, Gary Payton — achieved: representation that will empower those closest to him in meaningful positions…
“That’s the way,” Wall said Saturday night, without naming any names. “That’s what I want to do.”
Wall will soon make his best friend, Ty Williams — “my brother,” Wall says — his manager.
Wall denied that him being a shoe contract free agent right now factored into that decision. I’d take that with a grain of salt. Wall’s negotiations with Adidas are reportedly going slowly; I find it hard to believe that didn’t play a factor, especially considering Paul’s connections with Nike. But it was not the only motivation.
Players switch agents all the time. Most players will have multiple agents over the course of their careers. It’s part of the game. And recently, with the powerful Arn Tellem leaving the Wasserman Media Group to become an executive with the Pistons, there has been a bigger shakeup than normal. It feels like half the league is on the move.
But what is being asked of agents is shifting, to a degree. Keeping a players’ posse happy was always part of the job, but now more and more players want their friends to have some real power. They trust those guys, and they want to help out their friends. An agent needs to find a way to make that happen, and put together an excellent marketing platform for the player as well.
And even then, the agent is going to get dumped at some point. It’s the game.