World Wide Wes is in the building, which is kind of a big deal. Plus, a new pod and an important anniversary.
Let’s pretend for a second that Jaz-Z didn’t drop his name in a Drake song.
And that GQ didn’t openly ask a decade ago if he was the most powerful man in sports.
Let’s forget that a former NCAA investigator who looked into him repeatedly sending the most high profile prep stars to the most high profile college coach couldn’t accuse him of any impropriety, and could merely say “Wes is just Wes. Wes is everywhere.”
Let’s ignore the fact that he has ties to two of the biggest agencies on the planet besides the one he just spent the last 13 years working as a consultant for.
We can also ignore the fact that he was instrumental in mediating perhaps the single most volatile star/coach relationship of the last few decades, imploring Allen Iverson to “quit bitching and get his ass to practice.”
Yes, we talkin’ about practice.
And please, for the love of God, can we ignore the fact that were it not for him, there’s a better than decent chance the Knicks wouldn’t have used the 20th pick in the 2006 NBA draft to select Renaldo Balkman one spot ahead of Rajon Rondo and four spots ahead of Kyle Lowry?
Let’s ignore all of it for a second, and instead, as we judge just how big of a deal it is that William Wesley, aka World Wide Wes, now works for the New York Knicks (I’m not even bothering to write his title because it matters so little - they could call him a part-time usher and it wouldn’t mean squat), let’s consider this simple fact:
William Wesley started with nothing. Didn’t come from money. Wasn’t a big time athlete. Yes, he was tight with Milt Wagner, who would become the father of Dajuan Wagner, one of the best prep players of the last 30 years and someone whose early career with the Cavs was instrumental in putting Wesley in the right place at the right time to facilitate a lifelong bond with a kid from Akron who would turn out to be pretty good.
But then again, Wes had befriended Allen Iverson, not to mention had been running in the same circles as Michael Jordan, long before anyone knew who LeBron James was. Plus, his bond with Wagner, along with all of those early relationships with prep stars and NBA players from the South Jersey & Philly areas - including a point guard from Cherry Hill East named Leon Rose - weren’t through family connections or friends of friends. Wes made those connections on his own, as a 16-year-old kid, working for a sneaker store.
Again: everything he has, he created from nothing.
Yes, Leon Rose is the man running the New York Knicks, and Leon Rose will be the one to try and turn the franchise around using the acumen and relationships he’s built up over the last 20 years as maybe the most powerful agent in the NBA. But it’s important to understand that Leon Rose likely never becomes Leon Rose without World Wide Wes.
20 years ago, Rose’s most high profile client was Rick Brunson. Between 2002 and 2005, his rise from also-ran to premier power agent was swift. Who were his key signings during that time? Allen Iverson, Dajuan Wagner…and LeBron James. It’s the type of stuff that led Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk to tell GQ back in 2010 “Leon Rose doesn’t have any clout. Wes has clout.”
That GQ piece ran 13 years ago this week. You would think that after one of the most prominent publications in the world openly asks whether someone is the most powerful man in sports, that person would seize the opportunity to bask in the limelight a bit.
But of course that’s not Wesley’s style. It’s why the only meaningful quote he offered in that story was this: “I’m not a story. I’m just a nice guy. I’m not powerful; that’s a myth.” Real power doesn’t seek attention; it deflects it.
Since the day Leon Rose was hired and this picture was taken, a certain segment of Knicks fans have gotten a kick out of drawing comparisons between him and a certain mobster who also hailed from west of the Hudson. And like Tony Soprano, Rose’s name and face has been in the news over the course of his career. He puts himself out there, and that’d fine.
But as the most famous movie title image of all time reminds us, real power pulls the strings from above, sight unseen, while those below don’t even realize their actions are being dictated for them.
That’s William Wesley. His entire M.O. involves operating in the shadows, and now the most powerful man in sports gets a chance to make moves in the building that casts the largest shadow in sports. Everyone before him who’s come through this century, no matter how ballyhooed when they arrived, has failed. That includes Donnie Walsh, Wesley’s friend, who has no doubt told him of the challenges that exist within the World’s Most Famous Arena.
Not that he needs a reminder. Real power is not only all knowing, but sees events before they happen.
World Wide Wes wouldn’t be associating his name with the New York Knicks if he didn’t know he could be successful.
And judging by his track record, I’m not about to doubt him.
Thanks to Alex French for writing the GQ article that provided much of the information for today’s newsletter.
Leon Rose Spoke, as did me and Chris Iseman
The Knicks new President of Basketball Operations did a previously taped interview with Mike Breen that aired on MSG last night, and as expected, said a whole lot of nothing in the process.
But sometimes nothing is perfectly fine, and where the Knicks are concerned, meh PR is good PR.
That said, there were a couple points of interest:
He’s going to let his head coach dictate the team’s style of play, and try as best as possible to assemble a roster with that style of play in mind, and vice versa.
Speaking of the coach, he expects the search to go into mid-to-late-July, as has been previously reported. In terms of what he’s looking for in a coach, Rose did say, among other things, that it should be someone who can lead a huddle where the players can look into his eyes and “know who is steering the ship.” I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard this quote at a Thibs introductory press conference a month from now.
In regards to how much of the current roster will be back, Rose would only say that “it’s a little early to call that.” Bye bye, Bobby. You’ll be missed.
Finally, in regard to the draft, Rose did admit that there are “a couple guys that might stand out,” and then after that, a lot of equality. He noted that talent evaluators are all over the place on this year’s board.
For additional discussion of Rose’s interview, the hiring of World Wide Wes and much more (including a Mike & The Mad Dog impersonation from yours truly), check out my pod with Knicks beat writer Chris Iseman of NorthJersey.com:
Track of the Day
Today marks one month since George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by a police officer in Minneapolis. As the coronavirus ramps back up, it’s going to be tempting to let the movement that was put into the forefront of the nation’s consciousness by Floyd’s death recess in our minds.
It cannot. It must not. I’m calling on everyone to do something today, even if it’s a small act, to keep the passion alive in their own heart, and if possible, outwardly show that passion to others, just as a way to remind everyone that Black lives will continue to matter, today, tomorrow, and always.
In that spirit, I’m sharing a song I heard earlier this week that encapsulates what we need to do far better than I possibly could.
It’s also kind of a banger. Enjoy.
That’s it for today! Barring any big news dropping in the next 24 hours, I’ll see everyone next week. #BlackLivesMatter