While TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott has done tremendous work chronicling the tale of the Zelig-esque William Wesley, a feature in this month’s GQ by Alex France is equally impressive, both in scope and questions raised. A fellow journalist says of Wesley, œI thought he worked for the Secret Service or the FBI or the CIA. Then I thought he was a pimp, providing players with chicks, or a loan shark or a bodyguard or a vice commissioner to the league.
Agent Leon Rose is coy about his relationship with Wes, but according to many sources, it™s no coincidence that nearly all of Rose™s clients are Wes™s œnephews. LeBron James was 15 when Wes started attending games at Akron™s St. Vincent“St. Mary. Wes befriended Eddie Jackson, LeBron™s surrogate father, then became acquainted with LeBron™s family and eventually won over LeBron himself by introducing him to his idol, Jay-Z.
But Leon Rose never formally entered the LeBron sweepstakes. Ultimately, West Coast agent Aaron Goodwin won the right to represent him. His first order of business was structuring more than $120 million in endorsement contracts before LeBron ever set foot on NBA hardwood. Still, Goodwin™s hold on LeBron was tenuous. Wes tells me everybody had a hunch the relationship wouldn™t last. Goodwin has a history of being fired by superstar clients. And although Wes was already acting as LeBron™s adviser, insiders speculate that he was really seeking to pry the young star from Goodwin: In 2003, Wes moved into an apartment just across the hall from LeBron™s downtown-Cleveland digs.
Two years later, in May 2005, LeBron severed ties with Goodwin. (Wes insists that he had nothing to do with the decision.) And two months after that, LeBron hired Leon Rose.
Although they missed out on the millions in commission money that Goodwin pocketed from LeBron™s endorsements, the benefit to Wes and Rose was astounding. (Wes denies any financial quid pro quo with Rose.) Rose recently brought his practice to the Hollywood talent agency CAA, putting at his disposal multifaceted promotional services and nearly unlimited resources. And his sudden clout was showcased during the first round of the 2006 NBA draft, when the New York Knicks selected six-foot-eight-inch swingman Renaldo Balkman, a pick that caused ESPN™s Chad Ford to say, œRenaldo Balkman?¦ He averaged fewer than ten points per game¦. No other team would™ve taken him in the ï¬rst round¦. Wow. Greg Anthony called the selection of Balkman œbefuddling and later hypothesized that Isiah Thomas had selected Balkman and Temple University guard Mardy Collins because both were clients of Leon Rose, and that taking these players in the ï¬rst round might help them in the pursuit of free agent LeBron James.
A month later, LeBron signed a three-year contract with the Cavs. And the Knicks still suck. But the implication was out there: Leon Rose has the power to influence the NBA draft and the larger marketplace.
When I present this theory to David Falk, he stops me and says, œLeon Rose doesn™t have any clout. Wes has clout.
William Wesley is the best MySpace page in the NBA™s universe. Get on his friends list and just like that you™ll be introduced to Le-Bron, D-Wade, Carmelo, Jay-Z, Phil Knight, Michael Jordan. You™ll be connected to heads of industry, politics, and entertainment. You™ll be given a key to the club. You™ll be taken care of. But mainly, if you™re a middling agent from New Jersey or a 15-year-old kid from Akron or a 20-year-old unknown from Brazil, what William Wesley off¬ers is pretty simple: He can pluck you from obscurity and turn you into a (very, very wealthy) somebody.