Remember when Jay-Z founded Roc Nation Sports because he decided that, in addition to being a filthy rich hip hop mogul, multi-platinum recording artist, and husband of Beyoncé, he also wanted to be a sports agent?
At the time it didn’t make much sense to people. Some wondered a why a hip hop mogul and recording artist who is already filthy rich (and married to Beyoncé) would even want to get into that line of work. Others—mostly other agents—snickered at the idea of a rapper negotiating contract extensions and wondered what he could offer that every other agent could not.
But that was then. Now that Roc Nation Sports has clients the whole thing makes sense. Jay-Z may not negotiate deals like Scott Boras, but he is cooler than Scott Boras. And there are a lot of athletes who don’t just want to be rich. They want to be cool. They want to be icons…like Jay-Z.
So who are these would-be icons? Well right now there are 12 of them. Take a look…
Before we get to the list of Roc Nation Sports' current clients, we should probably mention their only (so far) former client, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. He ditched Rosenhaus Sports in May of 2014 for Roc Nation Sports. Then, whether because he wasn't happy with Roc Nation or because he felt guilty for leaving the folks who got him a five-year, $42.5 million contract, he ditched Roc Nation and went back to Rosenhause.
Make up your mind, Antonio.
Honorable Mention: Antonio Brown
Former Kentucky Wildcats star Young may not have been hyped like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. But apparently Roc Nation felt he was cool enough for their brand, so they wooed him with courtside seats at the Nets game next to (a braless and apparently chilly) Rihanna and signed him back in May. The next month Young became Roc Nation Sports' first ever NBA Draft first rounder when the Celtics took him with the 17th overall pick.
Of course, right now Young is playing Maine Red Claws in the NBA development league. So Jay-Z has his work cut out for him if he wants to make this guy an icon.
12. James Young
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks established himself as an integral part of the Giants offense in five years with Eli Manning and company. However, after a down year in 2013—though what Giants didn't have a down year in 2013?—he hired Roc Nation to represent him as he hit free agency for the first time, and they got him a solid one-year, $3.975 million deal with the Colts that includeda $2 million signing bonus.
I guess hip hop moguls do know how to negotiate.
11. Hakeem Nicks
Jay-Z scooped up Geno Smith before the former West Virginia star was drafted by the Jets, which also happened to be before Jay-Z was actually an accredited agent with the NFL. And it ruffled some feathers. Hell, Jay actually rapped defiantly about the situation in "La Familia" on "Magna Carta Holy Grail"...thought it might not have been worth all the fuss. Geno's stock has plummeted considerably in 2014.
10. Geno Smith
Signing Rusney Castillo as a client was a pretty shrewd move that could very well be considered a coup by Mr. Z. The Cuban born outfielder defected to the United States last December and, sensing that he could be the next Yoenis Cespedis, Roc Nation signed him in June. Then they got him a seven-year, $72.5 million contract with the Red Sox in August and he made his MLB debut in September.
Oh, and speaking of Yoenis Cespedes...
9. Rusney Castillo
In October 2014, just a few months after Roc Nation signed fully developed Cuban star Rusney Castillo and got him a big contract with the Red Sox, they signed the prototype. Cespedes was a fully developed Cuban outfielder when he signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the A's back in 2012. Now he's won back-to-back home run derbies and is set to become a free agent after 2015, and he's hired Roc Nation to negotiate his next deal.
8. Yoenis Cespedes
Victor Cruz didn't drop NFL superagent Tom Condon for Jay-Z. He didn't have to. Condon heads up the sports division at Creative Artists Agency, which partnered with Mr. Z in the creation of Roc Nation Sports. So Cruz was able to sign on with Roc Nation for publicity back in April 2013 while keeping Condon for negotiating.
This situation has worked out pretty well for him, too. This past offseason Cruz signed a five-year, $43 million extension with the Giants.
7. Victor Cruz
J.J. Watt may be the best defensive end in the NFL, but Ndamukong Suh is definitely the most feared. And contrary to what you may think, that's a good thing for Roc Nation Sports, which signed Suh as a client in September 2014. He may get fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for all his dirty hits, but there's no coach in the NFL who wouldn't want him on their team, and his rookie contract expires this year. So Roc Nation stands to make a pretty solid commission on him.
6. Ndamukong Suh
C.C. Sabathia is 34 years old and he's already signed the biggest contract he's ever going to sign, a $186 million deal that runs through 2016 with a team option for 2017. However, just because nobody's going to get a big payday, that doesn't mean Sabathia and Jay-Z don't have anything to offer each other. In Sabathia, Jay-Z gets high-profile New York sports superstar to add to his collection. In Jay-Z, Sabathia gets to make his refresh "brand" and make it seem coolas he heads into the twilight of his career.
5. C.C. Sabathia
Here's a newsflash for you. Jay-Z didn't sign former Notre Dame women's basketball star Skylar Diggins before the 2013 WNBA Draft because he thinks the WNBA is going to be the next big thing. He signed her because, in addition to being really good at basketball, Skylar Diggins is really, really hot. And that is a recipe for very lucrative endorsement deals—on which managers/agents also get a commission.
4. Skylar Diggins
Nobody sums up what Roc Nation Sports is about better than Dez Bryant. "It ain't about a contract," the soon-to-be free agent explained in November 2014 after signing up with Jay-Z. "It's about me branding myself and being an icon for these kids."
Of course, Bryant will make a sh*tload of money, too. The Cowboys wide receiver is having a hell of a year.
3. Dez Bryant
At #2 on our list we have patient zero. Jay-Z announced the creation of Roc Nation Sports in April 2013 by stealing Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano away from baseball superagent Scott Boras a year before Cano was set to become a free agent and make Boras a TON of money. Then he went and rubbed it in Boras's face by getting the 31-year-old a ridiculous 10-year, $240 million with the Seattle Mariners.
Jay-Z sure knows how to make an entrance.
2. Robinson Cano
Roc Nation Sports' highest profile client? That would be Kevin Durant. The 2013-14 NBA MVP won't become a free agent until after the 2015-16 season, but this summer Jay-Z went through a dry-run when he negotiated KD's new sneaker deal.
How'd that turn out? Well, seeing as how he totally used Under Armour as leverage to get KD a new 10-year, $300 million from Nike—which is more than LeBron gets—I'd say pretty well.
Sorry, OKC. Durant is a GONER.
1. Kevin Durant
Dez Bryant, free agency, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Robinson Cano,