Gregory Dole is a Canadian who now lives in Brazil, and for several months in 2003, he was Leandro Barbosa's translator as Barbosa moved to the U.S. for the draft. After a period of months training in Cleveland, Barbosa was drafted 29th by the Phoenix Suns. Barbosa and Dole then spent the summer in many different cities, especially Phoenix. At that time, Barbosa really didn't speak any English at all, so Dole was present for essentially every conversation Barbosa had with North Americans. Many of them, he says, were with William Wesley, Maverick Carter, LeBron James, Jay-Z, and Beyonce.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Since leaving the U.S., Dole has continued work as a translator and also as an English teacher. He has also started scouting for some agents and teams in Brazil, and says he was instrumental in Marcus Vinicius (now a Hornet) coming to the U.S. Dole says he has been doing some work for Aaron Goodwin, who was the agent LeBron James fired before hiring Leon Rose and a team of LeBron's friends closely associated with William Wesley. I don't get the feeling that his work for Aaron Goodwin or anyone else influenced his objectivity here, but it seems it would be unfair of me not to mention that.
And, for what it's worth, I haven't verified every fact in this story. This is Gregory Dole's version of events. But the many facts that I have checked have all proven to be true:
I spent a lot of time with William Wesley, or Wes, when I was working with Leandro Barbosa. I got to know Wes, which is hilarious in its own way. But I quite liked the guy.
He gets a bad rap because he has a lot of influence.
And there is that side to him. When Leandro was drafted, his agent was a guy called Michael Coyne. But Wes kept up relations with Leandro all the time, and about a year or so later--before Leandro signed his big deal--he switched agents to Merle Scott, who works for Bill Duffy.
A former NBA assistant coach, Bob Donewald--who's a really wild guy, a real cowboy--used to work down here in Brazil. [DraftExpress article about that.]
Donewald pointed out to me [and a TrueHoop source confirms] that Scott is a longtime pal of William Wesley. They're both from Camden. That transition happened after I stopped translating for Leandro. I don't know how it happened exactly. But I know Wes kept up the communication.
Wes definitely influence peddles. He trades on relationships. He has relationships with lots of people, and it's not just Leon Rose.
But that Wes--he's a character from way back. He was always pretty decent to me, and I think that might be his rap. He's pretty decent to everybody, and keeps up relationships.
The night that I met him, which was probably in April 2003, I was in Cleveland with Leandro. Leandro and Harper both trained with Eric Lichter, and Harper invited us to watch the Knicks vs. Cavaliers. Ron sat courtside and was hanging around with LeBron James, Maverick Carter and all of LeBron's friends.
At the end of the game, Ron calls us down from our seats and invites us to meet everyone. Harper had seen Leandro practice. Leandro was tall, long, quick, and he shot the lights out. Harper said "he'll be a star in the NBA."
So we go to the court and we're chatting with LeBron and his crew. This was just before the LeBron James draft, so LeBron and his friends were like the kings of Cleveland.
Then this one guy comes up and is all about knowing who the hell we were. Wes makes a bee line for us. He's chatting us up. He makes jokes about wanting to go to Brazil where he'll have a different girl every day. Rowdy, macho, ha ha jokes like that. Then he says come with me, I want you to meet my close personal friend Allan.
Then he takes us under the stands and introduces us to Allan Houston.
Next thing you know we're getting in his massive Mercedes, and Wes is asking who's your favorite player? Of course Leandro says Michael Jordan. He has the speed dial on the console of his car, and he phones up Michael Jordan. I kid you not. It's voicemail, but it's Michael's voice.
Leandro is blown away. I'm blown away.
Then Wes starts asking what kind of music Leandro likes. Leandro is fresh off the plane from Brazil. He knows almost nothing about American pop culture. He starts telling Wes about all these different samba people. Wes asks him if he likes hip hop, and Leandro says "I like Jay-Z."
Next thing, Jay-Z is on the phone, and it's a bit of a joke. In ten minutes we have met Allan Houston, left a voicemail for MJ, and now we're on the phone with Jay-Z and Beyonce. Leandro says he doesn't know too many of Jay-Z's songs, but he knows the one with the little kids on it, and he starts to sing it.
Jay-Z thinks that is hilarious, and he gets Beyonce to come to the phone. She loves it too. They make him sing it again and again.
I invite Wes to come to the place where we're staying, the Cleveland Athletic Club, for dinner. It's like a hotel and athletic club. But he ends up taking us to dinner at the Blue Point Grille, which is the like the fancy restaurant in Cleveland. DeSagana Diop and is brother were there, as well as Wes, Leandro, me, and some Cavaliers player I can't remember.
I'm dead afraid of the bill. Leandro is coming off a miniscule contract in Brazil, and neither of us have much money. I ordered nothing. I didn't want to spend $150 on a steak dinner.
But the bill never comes.
Wes says that he wants us all to say thank you this fellow over there on the way out. He tells us that guy is the president of the Cleveland Browns, and he paid for our meal. [The president at that time, I believe, was Carmen Policy. A Carmen Policy profile.] On the way out, said Wes, go say thank you. So when we left, we did.
At dinner, Wes talked non-stop about Dajuan Wagner. He kept telling us he put together Dajuan Wagner's shoe deal. That was his whole deal. He wouldn't stop talking about how he did that.
And he couldn't figure out who Leandro was. In the car, before we got to the restaurant, he had called his friend at Nike, I think it was Lynn Merritt. He gets him on the phone, in front of all of us, and asks if he has ever heard of Leandro. Lynn had heard of another Brazilian, Anderson Varejao, who was at that time playing in Barcelona, but knew nothing about Leandro. He called his buddy who worked at the Pistons.
At the dinner table out of nowhere Wes asked where Leandro was training. Leandro told him with Eric Lichter. Wes goes stone faced. He was pissed.
He was talking a lot about don't train with that mother... He said Sagana, you tell him. And Sagana told us. Sagana kept saying that Wes and Sagana were like family, and people didn't understand that Sagana would never do anything to hurt Wes.
Apparently the story was that Eric spoke badly of Wes. So Wes, it seemed like he had a vengeful side. He said something like I'm cool with everybody, but talk crap about me, I'll fu*&! you up. I didn't get the impression he meant like, violence. Just cut you off, kind of thing.
The reason Leandro was training with Lichter was because he had heard that Lichter was training LeBron James. That made him the trainer of note, in a way. But it was pretty coincidental. A couple of days later, Eric told us that LeBron was not training with him anymore, and it was apparently related to what he heard that night in the restaurant. Wes was really, really angry.
An interesting point is that I don't think Wes knew LeBron all that well at that point. Eric and LeBron were two-waying, with those little Motorola pagers everyone had then, quite a bit. Eric showed me the messages. But LeBron James certainly stopped going to that gym.
And then one day Tim Grover [top trainer who trained Michael Jordan] just showed up at Eric's gym, in head-to-toe Wizards gear, uninvited. He was just checking out the facility. It startled Eric.
Wes also asked Leandro which sneaker company he was signed with. Leandro signed with adidas, and Wes had a HATE for adidas. He wouldn't even say the word. He called it that three-stripe shit. He kept saying, I can get you a deal with Nike or Reebok. He also promised both of us all kinds of Jordan gear. He never delivered on that by the way. I must have called him a half-dozen times trying to get that Jordan gear. AND1, Reebok, everyone sent Leandro stuff, but not Nike, not Jordan.
Adidas just loved Leandro. We met a guy in Seattle named Lawrence Norman [says here he's head of global sports marketing] who told Leandro we'll beat any offer. That was his deal. So, obviously, the guy at adidas knew his players. A lot of people just didn't know about Leandro.
So we couldn't help Wes on the sneaker front.
After we left dinner that night, Wes was phoning. A whole bunch. All the time. Before and after the draft. He was always friendly. Always just keeping in touch, wishing Leandro good luck. And I was phoning him too, trying to get that Jordan gear.
I'm pretty sure he wanted to be the guy who helped Leandro Barbosa when no one knew who Leandro was.
The evening of the draft, myself, Leandro, and his older brother Arturo went to eat at the Brazilian restaurant Plataforma in New York. Derek Jeter was there. It was a nice place. Somehow, when we left there we had heard to go to Jay-Z's club. I think maybe Maverick Carter had told us to go there. And, of course, when we get there there's old Wes Wesley. He sees us and grabs Leandro and I and says you have got to get with Jay-Z. We go back to a room with Jay-Z. LeBron is there, and Maverick. It ended up being a similar circle of people all the time.
That summer Jay-Z played at the stadium in Phoenix [July 28, 2003, Jay-Z and 50-Cent's Roc the Mic tour played Phoenix] and the team asked if we wanted to go. When we got there, the concert was already started. We stood there at the edge of the stage and the singer Sean Paul comes up says hey, you're Leandro Barbosa. You're from Brazil. I'm from Jamaica. It's like one country. He goes on and on. Leandro knows nothing about this. Eventually he turns to me and says "who the f*&! is this guy?"
Then Wes spots us standing there, with Amare Stoudemire, watching the concert and he says Greg, Leandro, you have to come backstage. He was not letting Amare backstage, for some reason. Just me and Leandro. So we're walking backstage with Wes, and this massive Samoan grabs me and throws me against the wall. He has me about two feet off the floor. He was really quite rough. Turns out he's Jay-Z's personal security guard, and he just wants to know how I got backstage. Wes comes back around the corner and just says "he's with me" and then everything was fine.
So we go backstage and there's some PGA golfer. Jay-Z is there. Beyonce is doing her makeup. Wes is there. It's the strangest thing. No one really knows what to say.
And they all treat me like a pariah. They won't say two words to me. All they want from me is to talk to Leandro. Wes is the only guy out of the crowd who would even shake my hand or say my name.
I was joking with my friends by the end of the summer that I was sick and tired of seeing Jay-Z's face. Wes put us together with him so many times. And he wouldn't even shake my hand, which was weird.
We saw Wes several more times that summer. Crazy times.