Former Longhorn great and OKC Thunder superstar Kevin Durant will sign with Jay Z's new sports management firm Roc Nation, which has already inked clients like Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and Yankee 2nd baseman Robinson Cano. The thoroughly likable and high Q score'd Durant is one of the biggest athlete signings in the world and raises the profile, and credibility, of Jay Z's venture to another level.
Durant is in the 2nd year of his long term contract with the Thunder (which he announced in typical KD fashion with a modest Twitter mention instead a press conference) so this opportunity will immediately focus on off-court opportunities. It's about brand-building and Jay Z has proven pretty damn good at it - at least within his sphere of influence. Not to mention that Durant will likely get a mention in a future Jay Z song - Check Durant? You can't - and his name on a internet provider (Nothin' But Net) and a brand of cognac (Menage a Trey). I may have made those up.
Kevin is not the first high profile UT athlete to sign with a rapper-mogul looking to get into the sports game. Ricky Williams was famously represented by Master P and his rookie negotiator Leland Hardy, who managed to put together one of the most horrific, incentive-laden contracts in NFL history with the New Orleans Saints.
Here's a portion of the transcript from that meeting in 1998:
Leland: So, if Ricky runs for, like, 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns this year, y'all got to pay Ricky one billion dollars and a beignet shop, right?
Saints GM: (stifles giggle) Oh, yes. Yes, indeed.
Leland: But if he puts up some pedestrian bullshit, like 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns, y'all give him a Chiclets concession and you will pay the man seven hundred dollars CASH MONEY in non-sequential bills.
Saints GM: Well, alright.
Leland: You just got schooled, son. Master P in the house.
Saints GM: (Nods with pained expression, trying to suppress smile)
While the risk of a Master P-style disaster is mitigated by Roc Nation's affiliation with CAA and Durant on contract until 2016, the move has to be of interest to Sam Presti and the Thunder organization. An agency led by a charismatic figure that has Durant's ear with respect to branding and understands the self--perpetuating value of a Big City media presence (Jay Z is Mr. New York City, sign up for the NY Knick hope train now) combined with an Oklahoma City franchise that seems more interested of late in guaranteeing good than attempting great (Harden trade, Scott Brooks, zombie Kendrick Perkins), may be enough to prompt one of the most compelling free agent bidding wars in NBA history for a 28 year old, in-his-prime, Kevin Durant.
More broadly, Roc Nation should also benefit immensely with future client recruitment with the idiot-proof rookie contract structures adopted in both the NBA and NFL, causing many to wonder if a contract agent - and their cut - is even needed for rookies. What is always needed, of course, in a world where athletes routinely make as much in endorsements as in contract money, is a brand.