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What Is the Rich Paul Rule?

All of your favorite players are tweeting about it. Here's the deal.

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Rich Paul has been LeBron James' agent since 2012. Since then, he's brought huge names like Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and John Wall into his clientele. Because of his non-traditional agent background—Paul famously did not earn a bachelor's degree, and drew from his experience at CAA from 2006-2012 before founding his own agency—he represents the changing dynamic of NBA agents. In many ways, Paul's success is revolutionary. It's changing how business is conducted in the NBA, almost certainly for the better.

 

Earlier this week, the NCAA announced that it was amending its rule regarding agents and college basketball prospects considering entering the draft. As recently as two years ago, if a college player signed an agent to explore professional basketball opportunities, they had to forfeit their eligibility. However, after a good amount of public pressure, the NCAA began allowing players to sign with agents and still be able to return to school if they didn't get the information they were hoping for during the NBA Draft process.

 

Now, the NCAA has attempted to clarify that rule, listing specific requirements for those agents: That they must have a bachelor's degree, that they need to have been registered with the NBAPA for three years and pass an exam. Many players and basketball insiders immediately interpreted that rule as one that targeted Paul, or rather, the next Rich Paul. It's a measure meant to limit the number of agents approaching clients, to keep the power within the hands of the traditional agencies. Rich Paul won't be affected.

 

But maybe the next class of NBA agents won't be, either.

It's important to note that this policy is being put in place by the NCAA—college athletics' governing agency—and not the NBA. The NBA couldn't care less about where its players come from, but the age limit is 19, which often means star amateur prospects attend college for a single season of college basketball. It's a broken system, one the NBA is hoping to amend in the short term. But it's the current system, and savvy agents will always find a creative way to get around the NCAA's new—and yet still outdated—restrictions. 

 

Also, the players that this rule is designed to regulate aren't the star prospects that agents are clamoring to sign. It's those who wish to "test the waters," bubble prospects who aren't sure if they'll be drafted by an NBA team. Those prospects are the least likely to be the athletes that sign agents, as opposed to surefire lottery picks—those players declare for the Draft, sign an agent and never look back.

 

If the NCAA intended to send a message with this rule, it's an absurdly weak one. This isn't about Rich Paul; it's about trying to protect an antiquated system that has exploited labor and lined the pockets of the NCAA's executives. The NBA will distance itself from the NCAA in the coming years, and this rule could actually inspire the people it's meant to restrict. 

 

So, calling this regulation "The Rich Paul Rule"—catchy as that is—would be misleading. Rich Paul is a million miles ahead of this. It's a speedbump for the next Rich Paul. But it's not a hurdle.

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