LeBron, Calipari and the man of mystery Worldwide Wes

He has been described as the most powerful man in basketball, and if William Wesley can bring off the epic parlay of getting one friend (LeBron James) to play for another (John Calipari), he’ll deserve the title. Right about here, you might be asking, “Who’s William Wesley?” And therein hangs a tale.

William Wesley is known as Worldwide Wes. Everybody in basketball knows who he is, but nobody is quite sure what he does. He just shows up. He was famously photographed helping to break up the infamous brawl at the Palace involving Ron Artest. According to the New York Times, he stayed on the Queen Mary II along with the U.S. Olympic basketball team in Athens, Greece.

Of interest now: Worldwide Wes is buddies with the world’s best player, who’s about to become a free agent. He also has a close relationship of long standing with Calipari, who coaches Kentucky. When Calipari jumped from Memphis to UK, the question was how long it would take for WWW to surface around the Big Blue. The answer: Not long. When the Wildcats played Connecticut in Madison Square Garden last December, Worldwide Wes was seated in the front row near — though not alongside — school president Lee Todd.

And now the rumor is flying, via K.C. Johnson’s report in the Chicago Tribune, that Worldwide Wes is trying to pair LBJ and Cal and dump them in the lap of some lucky NBA club — like the Bulls, or the Clippers, or the Nets. Wes himself refused to comment when contacted by Rick Bozich of the Louisville Courier-Journal. (Wes almost never speaks on the record, which only adds to the aura of mystery he has created.)

The reason this (rumored) scheme has stirred such interest is that involves not just the biggest free agent in the history of free agency but one of college game’s brand-name programs. And it also spawns, not for the first time, a question about Wes: Is it right and proper for any one man, especially one of uncertain portfolio, to have fingers in so many pies?

The basics about Wes: He grew up in Cherry Hill, N.J., played high school basketball and worked at Pro Shoes, a local store frequented by ballplayers. He befriended Milt Wagner, who went to nearby Camden High and helped lead Louisville to the 1986 NCAA title. He would later become godfather to Milt’s son Dajuan, who would become Calipari’s first major signee at Memphis.

(A word here: Several outlets have sought to profile Worldwide Wes, who refuses to cooperate. The New York Times tried before the Final Four in 2008 — that was the year Calipari and Derrick Rose and Memphis blew the title against Kansas — without huge success. The best snapshot remains a 2007 piece written by Alex French in GQ. If you’ve read this far, you should definitely read French’s story.)

The belief has long been that Wes steers recruits to his pal Cal — first Wagner, then Rose, who was the 2009 NBA rookie of the year, then Tyreke Evans, who was the 2010 rookie of the year. (In French’s story, Calipari described Wes as “a goodwill ambassador.”) Teenagers are awed by Wes because he knows all the Shoe Co. All-Stars: LeBron, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson. Wes is a fixture at the LeBron James Skills Academy, a summer camp for the best high school players. It’s sponsored by Nike.

There have long been agents who wield seemingly disproportionate influence in basketball circles. (Think David Falk, or Arn Tellem.) But Wes technically isn’t an player’s agent. Sports Illustrated reported in March that he was close to finalizing an agreement to represent coaches for the Creative Artists Agency. Typically, Wes refused to comment.

Wes is a client of Leon Rose, the New Jersey-based attorney/agent who represents LeBron. (And A.I., and Carmelo, and Richard Hamilton, and Dajuan Wagner, who’s playing overseas.) And the power Wes apparently possesses remains nebulous. Is he a big deal because of who he knows or what he does? Who pays him? (He has long been a “mortgage broker” by trade.) And for what?

And now you’re asking: The local NBA club could use LeBron and needs a coach; why shouldn’t the Hawks open negotiations with Worldwide Wes? Answer: Because Rick Sund might as well fire himself if he does, because he’d have just enfranchised William Wesley as de facto GM. The Hawks have needs, sure, but they’re not that desperate. Not yet, anyway.

71 comments Add your comment

CATlanta

May 18th, 2010
11:40 am

heartofdarkness

May 18th, 2010
11:43 am

Fundamental disagreement here. The Hawks are desperate. Typically, for this organization, they don’t know it yet. Sund should bring in Wes, get a good deal as asst. GM, and sit back and collect the $$.

EW

May 18th, 2010
11:59 am

Didn’t ESPN mag do an article on this guy too MB?

EW

May 18th, 2010
12:00 pm

oh and my first first in a while too…nice

EW

May 18th, 2010
12:04 pm

nm that was weird it posted my comment with no others..Wordpress tricked me…

nola atl fan

May 18th, 2010
12:05 pm

great backstory mark… i saw the headlines on this “package deal” and now i what’s going on. thanks

MightyQuinn

May 18th, 2010
12:06 pm

Dang! Third?

MightyQuinn

May 18th, 2010
12:08 pm

Nope, not even close.

Mr. Phil

May 18th, 2010
12:14 pm

Thanks for this Mark. I have been reading about this Wesley character for years and still don’t know anything. I have gone as far as e-mailing different reporters and such to try and get some info (couple years ago) just out of nagging curiosty. Guess how far I got.

dap01

May 18th, 2010
12:18 pm

LeBron is showing his true colors. He is bigger than the sport. His persuit of individual goals are greater than having team goals.

Some NBA stars of today are pathetic.

bigeasy830

May 18th, 2010
12:19 pm

I am an old school Kentucky basketball fan, back in the days of Kenny “Sky” Walker, Sam Bowie, etc.. All I can say is if Wes do pull this off, the winner will be Kentucky. Calipari wins games, no doubt about that, but too much scandal surrounds his program. Kentucky suffered that through the Eddie Sutton years, that is why I could not understand why they wanted to go there again with a guy like Calipari. I know the fans were frustrated and wanted to win and be considered elite again. The Kentucky fans felt as if the program had lost it’s mystic. The Wildcats were not getting the big time recruits until Calipari showed up. But, if you dance with the devil……..

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 18th, 2010
12:28 pm

Mark- I cant even watch ESPN anymore because of the LBJ crap! Please dont join in on this ridiculous charade. We are going to have 6 weeks of LBJ in our faces and by the end of this? I cannot envision cheering him on. The speculation is already sickening.

toph

May 18th, 2010
12:28 pm

Check this out: What if Mr. WWW links LeBron, Cal and the Nets, with the 1st pick in the 2010 NBA draft. That would bring Coach Cal, LeBron and John Wall together, with a coach and his player reuniting. I think LeBron and Wall would be a dynamic duo together. Just what if. . . . . . .

Gravy Train

May 18th, 2010
12:28 pm

MB, still loving the Coach Cal at UK scenario? How long before the hammer comes down in Lexington? Looks like a deal with the devil doesn’t even guarantee a Tourney championship anymore.
If you’re curious what Cal can do in the NBA, check his resume with New Jersey.

Also, Lebron has yet to prove himself as the greatest basketball player. Great basketball players have midrange jumpers and can shoot free throws at a 90% clip with less than 2 turnovers a game. Oh yeah, they have accountability too. See Magic, Bird, Jordan, Kobe.

Mr. Phil

May 18th, 2010
12:33 pm

@Toph

If the Hawks play their cards right, that could be good for us too. If (when) the Nets get Wall, Devin Harris has to go somewhere. But then, does anybody want Joe Johnson, John Wall, Lebron, and John Calipari in one place?

toph

May 18th, 2010
12:34 pm

Do the Hawks want Devin Harris along with Teague and Bibby? That would be some team with Johnson, Wall, LeBron and Coach Cal in one place.

CATlanta

May 18th, 2010
12:36 pm

It’s my 1st first. Woohoo!

Worldwide Wes seems like a slick character, and that’s what makes this Cat fan nervous for my boys in the bluegrass. I know that Coach Cal has never been “guilty” of anything, I just hope that he will keep his nose clean at UK. We’ve been through too much as of late and don’t need another mess to clean up.

DZ

May 18th, 2010
12:38 pm

“Worldwide Wes is trying to pair LBJ and Cal and dump them in the lap of some lucky NBA club — like the Bulls, or the Clippers, or the Nets.”

Why not the Hawks?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, Travis Knutson and Bulls Fan Zone, TimD. TimD said: LeBron, Calipari and the man of mystery Worldwide Wes: Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) The belief has long bee… http://bit.ly/cjt25l [...]

BOB

May 18th, 2010
12:50 pm

In my eyes this is all just one big publicity stunt for Calipari. He is in the business of getting the most talented players to come play for him at Kentucky. These days “most talented” = one and done players. Once Lebron signs somewhere and Calipari stays at UK he gets to sell himself as the guy Lebron wanted to play for and don’t think the players using college as a pit stop to the NBA won’t eat it up. Calipari shuffles those players toward his preferred agents and Lebron rules the world.

Steve

May 18th, 2010
12:52 pm

What if Sacramento which has the 3rd best chance at the lottery wins?
They would not need John Wall since they already have Tyreke Evans so maybe the Hawks could come up with some type of package to get the #1 pick and get John Wall.

Alabama Sports Hall of Fame

May 18th, 2010
12:56 pm

Interested in sports? Follow the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame on twitter @ASHOF

PMC

May 18th, 2010
1:09 pm

William Wesley = Slugworth?

Kenbud

May 18th, 2010
1:15 pm

Trade with New Orleans for Darren Collison !!!

Jimmy

May 18th, 2010
1:16 pm

The article of WWW is worth the read. Remarkable.

DeepDiver

May 18th, 2010
1:20 pm

Yeah. Also the Hawks don’t have the cap room to sign Lebron even if Joe walks. There’s always that too. But you and Jeff keep writing you’re fluffy special interest pieces. Thanks.

Mr. Phil

May 18th, 2010
1:20 pm

@Steve

For teams not interested in Wall (a list that only includes New Orleans and Utah of the lottery eligibles) Evan Turner is considered the perfect alternative. He can play alongside Evans. However, a lot of people say Sacramento might look at moving Evans to the 2 spot.

Mr. Phil

May 18th, 2010
1:22 pm

Evans =Tyreke Evans and Evan =Evan Turner

HawkKingBibby

May 18th, 2010
1:23 pm

Mark its funny you mention Dejaun Wagner because if you can get an interview ” off the record with him” you can find out that this stuff about Lebrons mom and Delonte West is 100% true and bust this story wide open. Go for it !!!!!!

Mr. Phil

May 18th, 2010
1:26 pm

@HawkKingBibby
Read between the lines. WWW is the reason no major outlet is talking about the Delonte West/Lebron Mom situation.

FMX

May 18th, 2010
1:34 pm

Its shady characters like this WWW that give the NBA a bad name. Shady business if you ask me!! Why is it that everyone thinks that the rest of the league will lie down so Lebron can get his so called championship. I mean they do still play the games right????

JASon

May 18th, 2010
1:35 pm

No, actually I wasn’t asking that question at all. Why you even brought up the hawks in this article is beyond me. In fact it was a pretty good article until then. Anyway, please don’t put words in us readers’ mouths. I know this may come as a shock to you but we are not complete morons.

WCJ

May 18th, 2010
1:41 pm

The Hawks could package a deal that would send their 1st round draft pick(2010) plus melvin williams for the third pick in the draft(whoever has that pick) and select Demarcus Cousins(center) from Kentucy.

Eddie

May 18th, 2010
1:42 pm

For next Hawks coach bring back Mike Fratello

NC Braves Fan

May 18th, 2010
1:53 pm

After reading this and the GQ asrticle I’ve been trying to decide if this fellow is interesting or just odd … and I think I’ve decided he’s both!

HawkKingBibby

May 18th, 2010
2:06 pm

@ Obviously I dont have the connections that Mark Bradley has but I do see Dejuan Wagner in Camden from titme to time and I see no reason Lebron would lie to him. Lebron is not only upset with West but a few other teamates who knew what was going on and didnt tell him right away. Mo Williams who is one of the only guys Lebron still trusts is going to try and force a trade out of Clevland as well after what went down.

HawkKingBibby

May 18th, 2010
2:06 pm

@ Mr. Phil, oops.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2010
2:20 pm

Kudos, CATlanta. Belated kudos, but kudos all the same.

Dr. Warren

May 18th, 2010
2:21 pm

MB–thanks to a wonderful college girlfriend named Mindy, who hailed from the same town as Wes, I am certain that there is only one hill in that New Jersey town, hence the correct name: Cherry Hill, New Jersey. No “s.”

JC

May 18th, 2010
2:24 pm

Toph, Lebron and Rose, a WWW confidant, with the Bulls is a much more likely – and fruitful – scenario. Wall may be marginally better or worse, but Rose is a proven floor leader, athlete and future all-star in the NBA, whereas Wall still has the ability to Michael Beasley himself.

Michael

May 18th, 2010
2:31 pm

The Spirit Group could go all Falcons-like and go for the number one player (Vick) and set the town on fire again. Nahh, the teams are just a tax write off. On the other hand, I really appreciate the 53 wins and do not expect championships as long as the Lakers stay the Lakers.

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2010
2:31 pm

Sorry, Dr. Warren. I was typing during a high-level AJC meeting. Just don’t tell anybody.

Andy

May 18th, 2010
2:32 pm

I bet if this guy was investigated he would come up dirty. Everybody knows that Calipari is a shady character that leaves a job right when the investigations start. I bet this guy is handing out money to recruits and doing the dirty work for Calipari. Don’t you think there’s a reason why he doesn’t want to do inverviews and have people learn more about his past?

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2010
2:33 pm

About Calipari: I thought he was a good hire at UK because he’s a showman. I’m still not sure he’s much of a coach.

Dr. Warren

May 18th, 2010
2:40 pm

No problem, our little secret. This Wes guy sounds like someone who’d be described in Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.”

Mark Bradley

May 18th, 2010
2:46 pm

He’s an odd figure, almost Zelig-like. I once asked esteemed former colleague Sekou Smith, who knows everybody in the NBA, if he knew Wes, and he said he’d never met him. (Seen him, but never met him.)

Ray Stantz

May 18th, 2010
2:46 pm

If the hawks pass up on a big man this go around, they deserve any future failures they face. I don’t see how they thought they were going to fare better this year after they saw what happened last year and didn’t address the need. Instead they go get another guard to add to the list of guards they already have and all that got them was an individual award (sixth man of the year) and another early exit out of the playoffs. No way the coach should have been fired for the GM’s mistakes.

Section 303

May 18th, 2010
2:51 pm

Agree, Mark. Sund does not need to get involved with this guy. All those recruits that he has steered to Coach Cal and how many titles? That would be zero, for those keeping score at home.

Lay in bed with dogs, you get the fleas. Let Wes be Wes somewhere else.

hawkfan

May 18th, 2010
3:12 pm

This has got to be the dumbest article East of the Mississippi. Too much time on a lot of peoples hands to sit around and thinking up this crap. July 8th, please hurry up.

Skeezix

May 18th, 2010
3:24 pm

Calipari’s an NCAA crook–once word leaks out about whatever his current NCAA sins are–he’ll bolt again. So who knows–this story may be true and Kentucky will deserve whatever they get.