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So who, exactly, is World Wide Wes? He held back a beer-soaked Ron Artest in Detroit during “The Malice at the Palace.” He sat next to Jay-Z at the NBA All-Star Game. Maybe you caught a glimpse of him sitting next to Nike honcho Phil Knight at the Final Four. Most recently, he was cozied up to John Calipari as the two watched LeBron lose to the Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. William Wesley is not Forrest Gump. He just happens to be at the epicenter of many major professional sporting events.
This summer, as LeBron James is free to choose where he wants to spend the most important years of his career, nobody will play a bigger part than World Wide Wes.
William Wesley cut his teeth playing high school basketball for Pennsauken High School in New Jersey. It was in his battles with cross-town rival Camden that Wesley met Milt Wagner. Wagner would go on to play for the University of Louisville, and later the NBA. According to Wagner, he and Wesley became close confidants during that time. It was he that would be the man that introduced Wesley to Michael Jordan.
While Jerry West may be known as “The Logo,” nobody has singularly represented the NBA better than Michael Jordan. If Wesley wasn’t an ambitious man before he met Jordan, the doors that opened afterward certainly allowed him to become one. Ambition cannot work without influence, and another high school rival, Leon Rose, would provide all the clout Wesley would need along the way. When asked about his relationship with Wesley in 2005, Rose would only say that he has been his attorney for “21 years.” Currently, you may know Leon Rose better as LeBron James’ agent, the man who will ultimately pull the trigger on where James lands this offseason.
While we have learned of his back channel luck, a couple of chance acquaintances from high school do not make a man. Sure, he’s inadvertently rubbed elbows with some very prominent men on his way to the top, but in many ways, Wesley has been able to supersede them.
“At any given time, if you look at any sporting event, there’s a very good chance you’re going to see Wes,” says NBA analyst David Aldridge.
As recently as Monday, Aldridge was asked live on ESPN if he knew how Wesley was able to draw a paycheck. He had no answer. When Chicago Sun-Times writer Lacy Banks was asked to expound on the World Wide Wes Phenomenon, he was stumped. “I 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.” It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Even people running in his circles are dumbfounded about his role.
Rose may be James’ agent now, but it wasn’t always that way. Aaron Goodwin was the first to the James Party as he landed the client just after he declared he would go pro. Goodwin was no slouch, securing a $120 million endorsment deal that Nike was more than happy to be a part of. While Goodwin’s bottom line was flourishing, his relationship with his client was floundering. Rose and Wesley were making moves in trying to acquire the World’s Best Basketball Player. Leon Rose’s legal services had been subsequently obtained by Hollywood heavyweights CAA. With Rose came Wesley, and with Hollywood came James’ attention. It’s difficult to ignore the fact that Wesley moved to Cleveland in 2003, literally across the hall from LeBron while serving as his adviser.
LeBron James will be the biggest free agent of our time. In fact, he’ll be the best player of our lifetime. It’s not up for debate. Where he lands, however, is questionable. The media is playing checkers with the story, but for the player and his inner circle, it’s a game of chess. If you are still questioning the power of World Wide Wes, consider this: when Wes’s friend Richard Hamilton landed in Detroit in 2002, World Wide Wes moved there. He is nothing if not loyal.
As is said, “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” and this isn’t any different. The only difference is that Wes’s connections are the most powerful in the world of sports. If he decides LeBron should play somewhere, not only will LeBron play there, but World Wide Wes won’t be far behind. How he gets paid will still be up for debate.