If anyone ever doubted the influence of LeBron James and his team, that doubt should be put to rest. Yesterday the NCAA announced that they were removing the controversial bachelor’s degree requirement from their agent certification requirements. This announcement came just hours after Rich Paul, LeBron James’ longtime friend and agent, released an op-Ed in the Athletic criticizing the bachelor’s degree requirement. If that is not a demonstration of insurmountable influence, then what is?
The NCAA’s Agent Certification Process did not Last a Week Before it saw Sweeping Change
Last week, the NCAA revealed their new agent certification process. The certification process is for agents who wish to represent college basketball players looking to test the NBA Draft waters while maintaining collegiate eligibility. When the NCAA revealed that completion of a bachelor’s degree was one of the requirements, the sports world went into a criticizing frenzy. King James led the charge, dubbing the rule the “Rich Paul” rule, as he saw it as a snub at the success of Paul.
Rich Paul has Evolved into a Super-Agent
Paul has experienced unprecedented success as an NBA agent. Moreover, he disrupted college basketball when he represented Darius Bazley. Bazley was a top high school basketball recruit. However, he opted out of playing for Syracuse to workout on his own. During this time, he interned for New Balance. As a part of the internship, Paul helped Bazely receive $1 million guaranteed and a shoe deal. Bazley has the potential to earn up to $14 million on the deal and was drafted in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft.
Bazley's New Balance deal speaks to Paul's abilities. More impressive is that Paul has done all of this without a bachelor’s degree. The NCAA's initial rule was seen as a slight at the success of Paul. It was also viewed as yet another barrier to future agents like Rich Paul, limiting abilities to break into the sports agent business.
With Pressure from James, Paul, and Others in the Sports Industry the NCAA had no Choice but Give In
Many in the sports industry called the rule out for what it was. It was an attempt to keep those at the top of the sports industry in power. There would be no real challenges to the power structure. The Rich Paul rule would have disproportionately negatively affected minorities and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
As Paul mentioned in his op-Ed, the rule as it was would have ultimately prohibited those who do not have the resources, opportunity, or desire to get a four-year degree from entering the agent business. From all of the criticism and pressure, the NCAA was forced to get rid of the bachelor’s degree requirement. If this is not a testament to LeBron James’ and Rich Paul’s influence, then what is?