On July 5, 1991, Cal Ripken Jr. drove a pitch from the Yankees’ Tim Leary to the center-field wall at the old Yankee Stadium. Roberto Kelly chased after it, crashed into the fence and sprained his right wrist. Two days later, Bernie Williams was roaming center field in the Bronx.
This is how it often happens, an emergency leading to the realization of a dream. Williams’s career unfolded in ways he never could have imagined, with four championships, five All-Star selections and $103 million in career earnings. He never left the Yankees, and on May 24th, the team retired his No. 51.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a skinny little 17-year-old kid from Puerto Rico could be here this day, in this celebration,” Williams said in his speech, before the Yankees fell to Texas, 5-2, for their 10th loss in 11 games. “I am overwhelmed.”
Williams thanked George M. Steinbrenner, the principal owner who died in 2010, for making him a Yankee and keeping him here. Hal Steinbrenner presented Williams with a custom-made ring, No. 51 surrounded by diamonds on the face.
It is one for the thumb for a player who helped the Yankees win four championship rings from 1996 through 2000. Seven of his teammates in those seasons — Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez and David Cone — came back for the night.
Since selling his shares of ownership of the Brooklyn Nets in order to become a sports agent, the hip-hop mogul has already signed a handful of young superstars.
Durant, one of the three most popular players in the NBA, will join the likes of Robinson Cano, Victor Cruz, Geno Smith and Skylar Diggins as clients of Roc Nation.
While Jay-Z might not be the most seasoned sports agent, his brand development skills are undeniable. In the new age of brand marketing and social media, teaming up with a pop culture icon is one of the best ways for an athlete to increase his or her public image.
“KD doesn’t want a traditional NBA agent anymore,” a league source told Yahoo! Sports. “He wants Jay-Z to handle his branding. …He had a chance to be with his idol and couldn’t say no.” It also helps that Roc Nation is backed by Creative Artists Agency, one of the most powerful sports agencies in the country.
This is the second time in two years that Durant has changed agencies. He was most recently with Rob Pelinka of Landmark Sports, which represents both Kobe Bryant and James Harden. Pelinka had been Durant’s most recent agent. In a year with Pelinka, Durant was the most marketed player in the league, with national TV spots for Nike, Sprint and Degree, to name a few.
But very few agencies can offer what Roc Nation offers. Jay-Z has influence and connections in sports and entertainment that very few people can match. If Durant wants to be surpass LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as the most popular figures in basketball, teaming up with Jay-Z was the right move.
Jay-Z welcomes a new member into the Roc Nation family. Earlier today it was announced that world champion Robinson Cano, second baseman of the New York Yankees signed to Jay-Z’s latest venture, Roc Nation Sports. Life and Times reports:
“Because of my love of sports, it was a natural progression to form a company where we can help top athletes in various sports the same way we have been helping artists in the music industry for years,” says Shawn “JAY Z” Carter about the new venture.
The Yankee Slugger also told the press he is ready to take control of his career, and this move makes that possible.
“At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors both on and off the field,” said Cano. “I am confident that the pairing of Roc Nation Sports and CAA Sports will be essential in helping me accomplish my short- and long-term goals. I am making this important decision now so I can keep my focus on helping the Yankees succeed in 2013, while minimizing any distractions for me and my teammates.”