Jay-Z's expansion into the sports agency biz—announced with the signing of Robinson Cano last week—isn't going to stop at baseball. The whole point of putting Jay-Z's name on the enterprise is to use him as a lure for starstruck players, and nowhere is his brand stronger than in basketball. But if he's going to represent NBA players, he's not allowed to own an NBA team. Goodbye Brooklyn.
Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Jay-Z has already started the process of unloading his share of the Nets, and hopes to have it done by the end of June. Why June? The NBA Draft, and league conflict-of-interest rules mandate that licensed NBPA agents can't have an ownership stake in a team.
This shouldn't be a long process—Jay-Z's ownership of the Nets is a token one-fifteenth of one percent, or about a million dollars. (He went to great lengths to keep this figure under wraps.) His Nets union was as fruitful as it was short-lived: despite his small stake, he's become the public and commercial face of the team. The black jerseys? His design. The Barclays Center contains a 40/40 club, a Rocawear store, and its luxury suites carry Armond de Brignac champagne. Even without actual ownership, Brooklyn remains his team—and both his and the Nets' brands are better off for it.
Jay-Z's role in Roc Nation Sports should be as a similar figurehead. CAA's agents will do all the negotiating, since they're actually trained professionals. Jay-Z will be there for the photo ops, and he'll show prospective clients a good time. You think kids just out of college will have as good a time lunching with Arn Tellem as they would clubbing with Jay-Z? He's bait for the owners, too. Sign my client, and I'll show my face around your team.
The Nets will be fine. Their jersey is the league's fourth-best seller, and Deron Williams is No. 6 among players. They're run by a rich Russian guy. They're winning. Attendance is good. New York can sustain two basketball teams even if neither has a celebrity in the boardroom. But they've done all they can for Jay-Z's basketball career. There's the entire rest of the NBA left to conquer.