Rich Paul Discusses ‘Lucky Me’ Memoir at Harold Washington Library

Photo: Rich Paul talks about his memoir Lucky Me with host Sylvia Ewing (Credit: Chicago Public Library).

On Thursday (Feb. 29) a 385-seat Auditorium was filled as people waited for Rich Paul, the CEO and founder of Klutch Sports Group.

The Chicago community came out to hear his commentary and insight about his personal life, from growing up on the East side of Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1980s to emerging into his leadership role at his influential sports agency.

Before Rich headed out on stage with moderator Sylvia Ewing, cultural civic and literary engagement member Jennifer Lizak, Ald. Lamont J Robinson (4th) and Library Commissioner Chris Brown expressed their gratitude to the Chicago Library team, youth, and community for attending and Rich Paul for always coming back to visit the City of Chicago.

Rich Talks About His Parents

Rich was born into a blended family. His father, Rich Paul Sr., was married with a family, and his mother had two kids before him. His dad took on his responsibilities as a father, husband and entrepreneur with his store, an anchor in the Cleveland community. The store provided a gathering place, but it was also part of the trauma of the community in terms of some of the drug culture.

Paul noted a chapter in the book, “No, I Love Yous,” is based on his relationship with his mom and dad. His parents never verbally expressed their love, but they showed him by providing trust, respect, protection, character-building, responsibility, wisdom, and experience.

“My dad always stressed the importance of the customer. It allowed me always to treat people a certain way, regardless of their appearance or how much money they had to spend. His trusting me to pick the candy product (for the store) instilled a great confidence in me.” 

Paul also told the audience about the challenges his parents faced, which prevented him from witnessing his mother’s struggle with addiction and how it served as a blessing in disguise.

“Because of my mom’s addiction, I didn’t always have her around. I think one of the most important things my dad did for us was to sit us down and help me and my siblings understand that her addiction was a sickness. He never allowed us to disrespect her or be angry at her because sometimes people could take it personally. I started to understand that you would think her absence meant she didn’t care, but it was the other way around. She cared enough not to allow us ever to see it. I don’t have a visual that I can’t sit here and say.”

Multiple Hustles

Rich Paul

By being the youngest child in the family, Paul said he was born a hustler. From gambling against adults and kids, selling weed, ironing clothes for people as they got ready to go to the club, and running errands, his mindset of working in multiple areas brought him the money for fashion. It also allowed him to make his first purchase of transportation, a purple bicycle.

“A chapter in the book talks about ironing your clothes. My sister taught me how to iron, and I had two pairs of jeans. But it wasn’t a quantity. It was like I found peace and ironed my clothes, which was a weird dynamic. But then I got so good at it. I turned it into a business. Hustling is how I bought the bike.”

Yards After the Catch

LeBron clarifies in the forward of the book that his friendship began while having more in common than taste in jerseys. There was a sense of trust and the ability to be vulnerable.

“The first encounter stemmed from something my dad taught me and my mom, just going above and beyond; I was just being nice. When I met him [LeBron] at the airport, he saw something I had on. I was trying to give him the game and a few other guys he was with. I saw them again at the baggage claim and told them all if you go to this store back in Ohio, ask for me. If I’m there, I’ll take care of you. Call me if I’m not there. I still care for you.”

He also stated that Chicago is a special place for him and Lebron. Not long after they met in Akron, Ohio, Chicago was the place LeBron requested that he travel to with him.

“There was an AAU tournament at Percy Julian, and he broke his wrist in that tournament. He had asked me to stay and help while he was in rehab. I had a baby on the way, so I went back and forth between here and home. We stayed right on North McClurg. We would go to Northwestern Hospital at times. I would go to NikeTown every day.”

Rich said they established their friendship before becoming business partners through bonding about life, family and their relationships with their mothers.

“There’s something in football called Yards After Catch. The yards I had to make for myself after the opportunity was given to me; you can’t expect them to run for you, throw the ball at you, and run a touchdown for you. I had an understanding of that very early in my life.”

As the event wound down, the audience had time to ask questions. The line to ask questions grew, going down the aisle, and Paul extended his time to answer questions from the Chicago community and signed copies of his books afterward.

Being kind to others can help at specific points in life. What Paul learned and his parents instilled in him is always to treat people kindly, go above and beyond, and display a work ethic. He gave some insight into how he got the title of his book.

“I treated people a certain way as well, which allowed me to navigate throughout the city in a certain way. I’m blessed for it because it could have gone a lot of different ways for other people I was close to. That is one of the reasons why it’s titled “Lucky Me.”


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