NBA players using their salaries and name recognition for investment opportunities is not a new concept. After his illustrious playing career ended in 1996, Earvin "Magic" Johnson grew his investment company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, to a value of more than $1B through investments in companies like Starbucks, Cinemark, and Sodexo. Another Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, famously flipped a $6M investment in Body Armor into more than $200M after the brand was purchased by Coca-Cola.
Within the last decade, though, NBA players have started to turn to investing well before their playing careers have ended. Several stars have become full-fledged angel investors on top of the daily rigors of the NBA, creating a dynamic where players have a much more active hand in shaping the league around them. For example, Overtime, a sports startup using major digital traction to start a new developmental basketball league challenging the unpaid player model of college athletics, just raised a $80M Series C with involvement from a group including more than 25 current NBA players, while Dapper Labs, the company behind the recent NBA Top Shot craze, brought in a cool $305M in recent funding through a group including 30+ athletes.
The players ahead of this investing wave have already seen some incredible returns. Here are five current NBA stars who have become bonafide investors off the court.
Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
Arguably the most well-known NBA investor, Kevin Durant co-founded Thirty Five Ventures with manager and business partner Rich Kleiman after he joined the Golden State Warriors in 2016. One of the best pure scorers in the history of basketball, the 6-foot-10 Durant moved to Silicon Valley and realized that instantly being the most recognizable person in a pitch meeting had its perks. He still put in the work, spending his off days at investing seminars and board metings, and Thirty Five Ventures has now invested in more than 60 companies across fintech, cryptocurrency, health and wellness, media, and more.
Major wins for Durant, who joined the Brooklyn Nets in 2019, include an early stake in Postmates (bought by Uber for $2.65B), a seed round investment in Dutchie (a cannabis e-commerce platform now valued at $1.7B), and equity in Coinbase (currently trading around $300 a share as NASDAQ: COIN).
And if that wasn't enough success for one person, a short film that Durant was an executive producer on, "Two Distant Strangers," just won an Oscar.
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, LeBron James has not only turned his basketball likeness into a wildly successful business operation, but also has been able to lift up the people around him. Childhood friends Maverick Carter, Rich Paul, and Randy Mims are all actively involved in LeBron's business ventures as business manager, agent, and chief of staff, respectively.
Currently a forward for the Lakers, his first big investment was to become a part-owner in Blaze Pizza, a fast-casual pizza chain that now has more than 300 global locations, in 2012. He was also a part-owner of Beats by Dre before it was sold to Apple for $3B, a deal that a former teammate says earned LeBron $700M. More recently, he's been in the news for converting his 2% stake in the Liverpool Football Club into minority ownership of Fenway Sports Group, making him a part-owner of the Boston Red Sox, among others.
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Another prolific scorer to use Silicon Valley connections to grow his portfolio, Steph Curry started his off-court company, SC30 Inc., in 2017. The company is responsible for brand partnerships, investments, philanthropy, and media, including Curry's media company, Unanimous Media.
Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
The current President of the NBPA and point guard of the Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul is a very busy man off the court. He's an investor in Beyond Meat, Goalsetter, Hyperice, and others. Alongside Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade and backed by a seed investment from Goldman Sachs, Paul also started The Social Change Fund in 2020 to address public safety, criminal justice reform, and social inequalities in the Black Community.
Andre Iguodala, Miami Heat
Andre Iguodala is another former Warrior who turned to business after moving to the Bay Area. Noticing a theme here? Currently playing for the Miami Heat, Iguodala's first major investment was in Walker & Company, a startup making health and beauty products for People of Color that was acquired by consumer giant Procter & Gamble in 2018.
Since then, Iguodala has invested in companies like Zoom ($97B market cap), Marqeta ($528M in funding), and Twice (bought by eBay). He's also an advisor for African e-commerce giant Jumia as well as early-stage investment platform Concrete Rose Capital.
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