That is often when things get fractious. Goodwin repeatedly blasted the Dallas Mavericks when Kidd was frustrated with the offense and feuding with teammate Jimmy Jackson in 1996, saying, "If some changes aren't made and issues addressed, it may be time for [Jason] to move on. He's not having fun, and it shows in his game. Come on, he's not missing layups because all of a sudden he's a stiff. It's because his heart just isn't in it." Two weeks after Goodwin spoke out, Kidd was traded to the Suns. When the Vancouver Grizzlies were contemplating an ownership change in 2000, Goodwin publicly threatened that Abdur-Rahim, the team's star player, would demand a trade if general manager Stu Jackson were fired. Sure enough, after Jackson resigned to avoid being canned, Abdur-Rahim was traded to Atlanta. Goodwin's defining power play came last year in Seattle. Payton had played his entire career with the Sonics, but his relationship with the team soured when Payton claimed Sonics owner Schultz reneged on a promise to offer him a contract extension. ( Schultz said he wanted Payton to retire as a Sonic but did not promise the player an extension.) In stepped Goodwin, who publicly—and repeatedly—sniped at Schultz and CEO Wally Walker until Payton was traded to the Bucks in February 2003.
Goodwin approaches a confrontation with management like it's a no-holds-barred cage match. "My ex-partner [ Duffy] always told me that I should network and schmooze more, get in tight with G.M.'s," says Goodwin. "For what? If I'm battling with a G.M., I don't want him saying, 'Aaron, let this one go—we'll go have a beer, and I'll take care of the next client of yours who comes my way.' If I heard that, I'd say, 'No,' and I'd be thinking, When my next client comes around, I'm going to go at him the same way!"
Even clients who have fired Goodwin praise him. In 2000 Kidd and Boston Celtics swingman Paul Pierce both dropped Goodwin and hired attorney Jeff Schwartz. Kidd says he wanted to pay Schwartz an hourly rate to handle his deals instead of Goodwin's standard fee of 4%. Pierce, a Los Angeles native, felt the L.A.-based Schwartz could be "more hands-on." Pierce says, "It wasn't a bad breakup. I still talk to Aaron. He's a real good guy and a really good agent." Hornets guard Courtney Alexander, who left Goodwin in 2002, recently asked him to represent him again.
James says Goodwin's persistence and his personal relationships with clients were the two primary factors that led him to choose Goodwin from among a horde of suitors. Goodwin made biweekly trips to Akron and other cities to watch James play for St. Vincent-St. Mary High. He even abandoned a family church event in Palm Springs, Calif., in January—catching a red-eye to Cleveland—because James had asked if he'd be attending a critical game. "I give Aaron a lot of credit for the time he put in," Paxson says. "Whenever I went to LeBron's games, Aaron was there."
Although some people are put off by Goodwin's forthright nature, James was drawn to it. "Aaron was always real straightforward, and I saw I could be friends with him," says James. "That's what I didn't see in the other agents. Besides doing business together, I could have a good relationship with him." Goodwin has cemented that bond by spending countless hours with the young star, sometimes simply hanging out with James and his pals. Goodwin has eased James's transition into the NBA, satisfied his other clients and has shown that he's more than a one-trick agent by landing Webber and Howard. As one NBA executive says, "I don't know how much wrong Aaron Goodwin has done. But he's obviously doing something right."
After a Cavs win over Chicago in March, Goodwin waited for James outside the Cleveland locker room. When James finally appeared, he gathered his friends and family and then asked if Goodwin was coming with them.
"What's going on tonight?" Goodwin asked.
"Same as usual," James said. "We're just trying to take over the world."