June 27, 2011
When LeBron James(notes) left the Cavaliers, owner Dan Gilbert and assorted other Cleveland officials and luminaries bemoaned how they had to accommodate and put up with the Chosen One's entourage. Pleasing LeBron wasn't just a matter of winning games and fulfilling his desires: They also had to please his friends, too. And as those friends became James' business associates, the entire relationship became more complicated and difficult to take.
Still, LeBron's friends are now a fairly important marketing firm for athletes, LRMR. Superstars and rookies alike are employing them to manage their brands. So it should come as little surprise that, even though Gilbert talked smack about the people who run LRMR in the past, he now finds his franchise having to work with them once again.
New Cavs big man Tristan Thompson(notes), the fourth pick overall in last Thursday's draft, has hired LRMR as his marketing agency. Rich Paul (the "R" in the company's name) spoke to Cleveland blog Waiting for Next Year about the relationship (via PBT):
"It's like I never left," Paul tells WFNY on a day where the Cleveland media and select public were introduced to the two newest members of the Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving(notes) and Tristan Thompson. A friend of LeBron James, a member of the infamous four hoursemen, and one of the R's in LRMR - the marketing agency that will forever be linked with all things evil when it comes to Cleveland sports and fandom - Paul now finds himself as the player representative for Thompson, marking the first time the James confidant has been back with the team since the night of The Decision. [...]
Shortly after the selection of Thompson and the dissemination of who his representation was, a negative reaction permeated Twitter; the stench of all things LRMR was rampant as trade requests and James-related quips were thrown about. Like many players their age, both Irving and Thompson said they look up to James as a player. Thompson went as far as to refer to James as a "big brother" in an interview on draft night.
But if one thing was made clear by Paul, he's making a valient attempt at keeping the line between business and personal definitely drawn — a distinction that is often difficult to delineate when it comes to sports. He understands that there is a lot of ill will still festering in Cleveland as The Decision was less than one year ago, but he also knows that there is very little — if anything — that he can do to make that better. What he can do is represent one of the players who will hopefully help the Cavaliers get back to the same level of prominence they had when he walked the halls of the Cleveland Clinic Courts many years prior.
The interview paints Paul as a businessman and representative trying to move beyond the past and do right by Thompson as he tries to bring the Cavs back to relevance in the East. He also seems to be the member of LRMR with the best relationship with the Cavs, so it makes sense that he would represent the team's newest player.
While this new relationship doesn't directly involve LeBron James, it does help show why Gilbert's previous comments about his entourage were misguided. As LRMR takes on more clients, the Cavs will naturally have to deal with them more and more often. It's in his best interest to end relationships amicably and not hold grudges, because doing otherwise could brand the Cavs as a franchise that only thinks of loyalty as a one-way proposition.
To Gilbert's credit, Cleveland appears to be on the right path with Thompson. It got another chance and seems to be taking advantage of it.