Since April 2, the day Jay-Z decided to start Roc Nation Sports, when he put every sports agents on blast when he signed the New York Yankees' Robinson Cano away from sports superagent Scott Boras, he has slowly assembled a strong roster of clients. But Jay-Z's latest prize is the crown jewel in the collection so far.
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Late Friday night, Sports Business Journal's Liz Mullen reported Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports will poach Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant from Landmark Sports' Rob Pelinka, who confirmed Durant has left his sports agency. "We are honored and blessed to have worked on behalf of Kevin, for a brief period of time," Pelinka said in a statement. Durant has not yet signed with Roc Nation, but it's widely expected he will when the time comes. He doesn't immediately need a new agent. He's signed with Oklahoma through 2015-16.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski has more insight into Durant's looming Roc Nation deal:
"KD doesn't want a traditional NBA agent anymore," a league source with knowledge of his thinking told Yahoo! Sports on Friday night. "He wants Jay-Z to handle his branding. …He had a chance to be with his idol and couldn't say no."
Durant is easily the biggest (soon-to-be) signee in Jay-Z's ever growing stable of athletes. He launched with Cano and, in the ensuing two months and change, signed New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz, and buzzed-about newcomers like WNBA player Skylar Diggins and the (soon-to-be) starting rookie quarterback for the New York Jets, Geno Smith. But none of those athletes are as prominent or well-regarded within their respective sports as Durant.
Few people in the NBA enjoyed as much commercial presence as Durant while he was with Pelinka. He had deals with Nike, Sprint, Gatorade, Degree, and 2K Sports and could be constantly seen on television screens and billboards. He's widely seen as the best NBA player not-named Lebron James. Bill Simmons put him just behind James in his annual value column. It's a position Durant knows all too well, living in the shadow of the best player since Jordan, and he's sick of it. His struggle with always being second-fiddle to James made for a brilliant Sports Illustrated cover in April:
“I’ve been second my whole life,” Durant tells SI‘s Lee Jenkins in a profile that will hit newsstands on Thursday. “I was the second-best player in high school. I was the second pick in the draft. I’ve been second in the MVP voting three times. I came in second in the Finals. I’m tired of being second. I’m not going to settle for that. I’m done with it.”
So he was well-represented, but under achieving on the court. Something about Jay-Z attracted him, apparently, and now he's off in a weird limbo stage until the i's and t's are dotted and cross. This all speaks to the power of the God MC and the draw he has with the modern pro athlete. It should be noted that Durant, 24, was seven years old when Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt was released.
A few things have to be sorted out before this marriage becomes official. Jay-Z still has to sell his ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets before Durant can officially join his roster, lest he break conflict of interest rules with the NBA. ESPN's Darren Rovell suspects Durant won't officially sign his life over to Jay-Z until that deal is done, which would make a lot of sense considering both sides would want to avoid scandal as much as possible. Roc Nation Sports is already drawing questions for the way Geno Smith's hiring was handled. After announcing himself as a major player in the market, Jay will want to limit questions from league officials and competing agents until his Brooklyn deal is finalized. It's all politics as usual.