RICH Paul has become one of the most powerful figures in the NBA because he was in the right place at the right time.
The super agent was selling vintage athletic jerseys out of the trunk of his car when he struck up a conversation with then-high school basketball phenom LeBron James at Akron-Canton Airport in 2002.
LeBron, then 17, was impressed by a vintage Houston Oilers Warren Moon-themed jersey worn by 21-year-old Paul.
It was a conversation that would completely change the life of Paul, who had a challenging childhood and was a college dropout.
After securing a position at Creative Artists Agency with LeBron’s help, Paul founded the Klutch Sports Group, which today represents some of the biggest athletes in professional sports, including the NBA, NFL and WNBA.
His client list is impressive, ranging from LeBron, Anthony Davis, Zach LaVine, Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green and many more.
He secured over $600 million in deals for his clients this off-season alone.
Such was Paul’s astronomical rise that he was named co-head of athletics at United Talent Agency, where he serves on the board.
Paul is reportedly worth $120 million himself and has developed a top relationship with superstar singer Adele, whom he plans to marry.
Here’s a look at Paul’s incredible rise from growing up with a drug-addicted mother to one of the most powerful agents in global esports.
Unstable upbringing in Cleveland
Paul grew up in Cleveland of modest means, his parents divorced, and his mother, Peaches, struggled with drug addiction for much of her life.
For a time, he lived with his siblings above his father, Rich Sr.’s corner store R&J Confectionery, which was in a rough neighborhood teeming with gun violence.
From the age of ten, he lived with his grandmother and great-uncle in a house several blocks away.
“I was never really angry, but I was definitely protective and in a lot of ways I was definitely sad.” he told the New Yorker from his mother’s struggles.
“Because as a kid you see other kids and their experiences with their parents and you want the same thing.”
In the ninth grade, Paul was sent by his father to the private Benedictine High School, which was Roman Catholic and mostly white.
After saying goodbye to his father to improve his grades, Paul secured a place at the University of Akron.
But in 1999, he moved to Cleveland State to be closer to his father, who was diagnosed with colon cancer.
His father died a few months later and Paul dropped out of college.
“He always told me that my education was important,” Paul said.
“I’ve always wanted to work. But if my father were still alive, I probably would have finished school anyway.
“I never wanted to let him down.”
Unbreakable bond with LeBron
Paul had a keen business acumen and soon got into the sports memorabilia business after being tutored by Andy Hyman, the owner of Distant Replays store in Atlanta.
Paul bought jerseys from Distant Replays and sold them out of his trunk in Cleveland.
By sheer destiny, he struck up a conversation at Akron-Canton Airport with LeBron, who was en route to Atlanta with friends for the 2002 Final Four.
Paul referred LeBron to Distant Replays and asked him to drop his name.
A few days later, Paul was sitting at home on his couch when he was notified that LeBron was in the store purchasing an authentic 1987-88 Magic Johnson jersey.
“It was fate. I could have missed the plane. “I could have taken an earlier flight,” Paul said.
“I couldn’t have worn the jersey. I could have had a bad day and not talked to him.”
Paul and LeBron soon formed a friendship and over time he joined the NBA star’s inner circle along with best friends Maverick Carter and Randy Mims.
Then, in the summer of 2003, after the Cleveland Cavaliers picked James as their No. 1 pick, he began paying Paul a $48,000 salary as his personal assistant.
Paul quickly got involved in the basketball business when he co-founded LRMR Marketing in 2006 with LeBron, Carter and Mims.
In 2008, under the tutelage of LeBron’s agent Leon Rose, he joined CAA to expand his career and quickly landed several clients of his own, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe, among others.
Four years later, the NBA landscape was shaken up when Paul founded Klutch Sports on his own, with LeBron as his star client.
“I always felt like he had a purpose and that’s why I kept him,” LeBron told the New Yorker.
“I knew he would be more than what he thought possible at the time.
“It was just a feeling I had.”
Expanding business empire
Over the past 10 years, Klutch Sports has grown into one of the most powerful agencies in major professional sports.
During the NBA offseason, Paul flexed his financial powers to secure over $600 million in contracts for his clients.
These included major deals for Golden State Warriors veteran Draymond Green ($100 million), Portland Trailblazer winger Jerami Grant ($160 million), and Houston’s Fred VanVleet ($130 million). .
Those deals came on top of recent deals for Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson ($55 million) and Atlanta Hawks star Dejounte Murray ($120 million).
Paul reportedly earns a four percent commission on every deal he negotiates.
After day one of NBA free agency, LeBron took to Twitter to hit back at critics who cast doubt on his longtime friend.
“And you still want to wonder if Rich Paul is the ER,” he said.
“It says a lot about you if you don’t feel us. I told him less is more. There are many of us.”
Such is Paul’s influence that he brokered peace with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to ensure LeBron’s return in 2014.
He then secured a series of two-year contracts for LeBron that maximized James’ value and flexibility.
“Everyone just wants to say, ‘Oh, this guy is LeBron’s friend and he took advantage of that,'” Green remarked.
“Nobody is talking about the additional $52 million or whatever LeBron made by closing the deals this way.”
In 2019, Klutch Sports secured “significant investment” from UTA, with Paul being named the agency’s head of sport.
Klutch also expanded to create a football division, and earlier in the year the company acquired Elite Athlete Management, which represents around 40 NFL players, including Odell Beckham Jr. in May
Paul announced in May that Klutch Sports has negotiated more than $2 billion worth of deals to date.
A-list relationship with Adele
As Paul’s career grew, so did his fame, which even led to a shoe deal with New Balance, a first for a sports agent.
In 2021, Paul began dating British music sensation Adele and the couple went public while they sat together at an NBA game.
After weeks of rumours, Adele and Rich Paul made their relationship official on Instagram in September of the same year.
Soon after, Adele opened up about their bond for the first time in a series of interviews.
“Rich arrived incredibly” she said.
“I don’t feel scared, nervous or exhausted. But on the contrary. It’s wild.”
They quickly became a star couple and in February, Adele sparked engagement rumors when she was spotted sporting a diamond ring on her ring finger at the BRIT Awards.
The couple has not announced any wedding plans yet.
Paul has three children from a previous relationship, but he has recently indicated he is open to the possibility of having more children with Adele.
Last year, Paul published his memoir, appropriately titled Lucky Me.
He told GQ of the title: “I was lucky that I didn’t die before the age of 21 or that my freedom was taken from me.”
“I was able to experience different things that a lot of my friends didn’t do. Correct?
“And beyond that, I was able to be successful.”