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Rappin' on the Door
Michael Silver
July 19, 1999
Music mogul and would-be NBA star Master P is breaking into sports management, with Ricky Williams as his marquee client
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July 19, 1999

Rappin' On The Door

Music mogul and would-be NBA star Master P is breaking into sports management, with Ricky Williams as his marquee client

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Paid by the Yard

The most important incentive in the first four years of Ricky Williams's performance-driven contract gives him the chance to boost his rock-bottom base salary ($175,000 for 1999) in the following season by reaching any of the lofty rushing totals listed below. But only 15 NFL runners (including just three rookies) have reached the clause's easiest goal, 1,600 yards. What's more, New Orleans hasn't fielded a rusher who gained even 1,000 yards since Dalton Hilliard ran for 1,262 yards in 1989.—David Sabino

Rushing Yards Needed

Players to Reach the Plateau

Times the Plateau Has Been Reached

Williams's Base Salary the Following Season




$1 million




$1.5 million




$2 million




$2.5 million




$3 million

There was nowhere to run and not a blocker in sight, so Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams lowered his head, bit his lip and took his punishment. Outnumbered 10 to 1 in a room whose walls seemed to be closing in, Williams absorbed a tongue-lashing from Percy Miller, a man with a mouthful of gold, diamonds and, on this February morning, harsh words for a potential client. Miller, known to legions of hip-hop fans and moviegoers as Master P, had been awakened a week earlier by a 4 a.m. call from Williams, who had expressed a desire to sign with No Limit Sports, Master P's fledgling agency. The next day, however, Williams split for Maui to play in the Hula Bowl and left Master P hanging. Finally, they were together in a guest room at the U.S. Grant Hotel in San Diego—along with an entourage of Master P's associates, commonly known as No Limit soldiers. Williams didn't dare talk back.

"It's time for you to step up and be a man!" Master P barked. "People are gonna be player-haters and talk a bunch of s—, but you gotta be hard. People like us are capable of breaking down all the barriers, and we've gotta stick together. So stop f——— around with us if you ain't serious, 'cause we ain't got time to waste on you."

Williams was furious. You don't even know me or what I'm about, he thought, or you wouldn't be saying this. He looked up at Master P—a ghetto-raised rap icon whose songs feature images of street violence and other urban ills—and swallowed hard. "I was very intimidated," Williams, who was raised in a middle-class suburb of San Diego, recalled four months later. "I had never met a rapper before, and I knew his lyrics, so I didn't know what to think. I had to swallow my nuts a little bit. It was very awkward. You know how when you're a kid and you're getting lectured by your mom, her face gets enormous? That's how it felt."

When the lecture ended, Williams went upstairs to his hotel room to look over the proposed representation agreement with Master P. It called for No Limit to receive a 3% fee, the maximum allowed by the NFL Players Association. Williams thought he would be ridiculed if he agreed to such terms, and when he returned to the room downstairs, he told Master P that many agents would jump at the chance to sign him for 1% or less. "I'll give you 2 percent," Williams said, and Master P shook his head. Williams reminded Master P that, as one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL draft, he might command a contract worth $50 million, "and 2 percent of that is a million bucks." The room fell silent. Then Master P, surprised by the 21-year-old's resolve, caved. "Man, you're a crook," he told Williams. "You think this is fair? It's robbery."

Minutes later Williams signed with No Limit, forming a partnership mat sent shock waves through the sports world. Depending on who's talking, the hookup of gangsta rapper and dreadlocked runner signaled either the spawning of an entertainment empire for the new millennium or the end of the world as we know it. The debate has intensified over the past four months as the plot thickened: Williams's draft stock slipped a bit, possibly because of NFL teams' concern over No Limit's inexperience and the potential for a protracted contract dispute; the New Orleans Saints traded an unprecedented eight draft choices to acquire the fifth pick, which they used to select Williams; and, on May 14, Williams signed an unorthodox, incentive-laden contract that will pay him far less than his market value if he doesn't put up huge numbers.

Many established agents point to this eight-year package as proof that No Limit is in over its head. Jim Steiner, a prominent agent based in St. Louis, called the contract "the best thing they could've done for the rest of the agent community. It will be challenging for No Limit to recruit college players next year." Scoffed another established agent, referring also to the brouhaha last year when No. 5 pick Curtis Enis hired an agent with ties to the organization Champions for Christ, "Last year we had the bornagains. This year it's the gangsta rappers. What do you figure for next year—the landscape architect agents? The circus barkers?"

Williams, No Limit's lone marquee client, responds by seizing the moral high ground. "The Saints showed a lot of faith in me," he says, "and if I'd squeezed them for guaranteed money and didn't pan out, I couldn't look myself in the mirror."

More improbably, Master P and his associates have emerged as champions of old-school virtue. "If you feel a need to get all of your money up front, that's insecurity," Master P says. "At No Limit, we're into proving to people that we're hard workers. If Ricky's a real football player, he'll get his money. He told the Saints, 'I want to work for it.' That's what you call leadership."

It would behoove sports fans to get used to Master P, whose attempts to barge into the athletic realm have been as subtle as a Shawn Kemp tomahawk jam. Last summer Master P, 29, launched an unlikely drive to make it as a pro basketball player. He had a brief stint with the CBA's Fort Wayne Fury and followed it up by spending training camp with the Charlotte Hornets, who cut him four days before the season began. He plans to play in pro-am leagues this summer, with his sights on another NBA tryout before next season. Master P has a national shoe deal with Converse and is interested in owning an NBA team. Recently he released a basketball-tribute CD featuring, among others, platinum-selling No Limit artists Snoop Dogg, Silkk the Shocker and Mr. Serv-On.

If nothing else, No Limit has made the world of sports representation less boring. Leland Hardy, the agent who handled the Williams negotiations, has an even wilder resume than Master P. Hardy, 37, a former stockbroker and heavyweight boxer who speaks five languages and says he has acted in more than a dozen feature films, claims he insisted on hammering out the Williams deal at a country club "to send a message to all the young kids down with No Limit: We invited ourselves to this society's last bastion of exclusion."

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