Last week, Duke traveled to Charlottesville for a top-five matchup that ended with them beating Virginia by a score of 81-71. Not only did the contest give people a pre-March primetime matchup in an otherwise boring ass sports month, but it also provided a Rorschach test for suspicious minds to decide whether LeBron James and his agent/friend Rich Paul (both of whom were in attendance) were simply fans taking in Zion Williamson's greatness prior to turning pro, or devious minds on a recruiting trip for some Blue Devils. For those in the latter category, both James and Paul were calling BS on those accusations.
"A recruiting trip? I didn't talk to anybody," James said to ESPN prior to recalling his own (somewhat similar) prep experience. "They're only saying that because it's Rich. When Shaq came to see me play in high school, when A.I. came to see me play in high school, they weren't saying it was a recruiting trip then. But because it's Rich Paul and LeBron, now it's a recruitment trip.
"Now Rich is a threat to everybody, and they look at it and they want to keep trying to jab my agent and jab my friend. And what is he doing that's wrong? They don't say that about no other agent when other guys go see [players]. They don't say that about no other agent, but my guy because he's a threat. And he's African-American, too. Throw that in there."
Since Williamson won't be a free agent, it's unclear how a "recruiting trip" would even work, at least on James' part. It would make more sense, however, for an agent. But Paul also did not care for the designation, and stated that they were just taking in a game since they were within very short flying distance from Philadelphia, where the Lakers had a game.
"All I care about is respect," Paul told ESPN. "That's all. We were just enjoying a basketball game. Didn't talk to nobody. Didn't do anything or nothing. But it's an issue when you see several media people shining a light on it as if it's a negative thing. But when I was one of his homeboys, one of his 'posse' and we went to see Steph Curry in Detroit (for a Davidson-Wisconsin NCAA tournament game in 2008), nobody said anything. Nobody said nothing."
Paul, continued, adding that the theory that they were recruiting Williamson plays into larger issues of representation. "Think about it from this perspective. On one end, you got a 'posse.' Or they're 'leeches.' Years ago it was leeches or 'hanger-ons.' They're OK when they can call you that, but they're not OK when it's a CEO and you have the biggest superstar in the world supporting somebody that he trusts to do his business off the court and just who happens to be a friend," he said.
So long as we're talking about
swinging dicks power players in the league, on that same note James also recently told The Athletic’s Joe Vardon that he's definitely going to own a team after he calls it a wrap on his playing career. “Ain’t no maybe about it, I’m going to do that shit,” James said with a succinct statement that's impossible to misinterpret.
Even though those net worth sites are frequently garbage, Forbes pegs James' current cash flow at around $450 million, which is well short of the billion-plus needed for NBA team ownership these days, but it (along with his NBA stature) is easily enough to make him a primary investor.