America at work
Business Ballers: Steph Curry, LeBron James, and 5 Other NBA Stars Turned Entrepreneurs
Takara Small | June 1, 2016

Stephen Curry and LeBron James have much in common: they’re both NBA champions, they both have multiple league MVP awards and numerous All-Star game appearances—and of course, they will both be playing for another ring when Curry’s Golden State Warriors and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers meet this week in the NBA finals (for the second straight year).

One more similarity? They’re both entrepreneurs, too.

In fact, Curry and James are among a growing roster of NBA stars who have managed to find just as much success in the business arena as they have on the hardwood. Here’s a look at Curry’s and James’ thriving business ventures, as well as five other basketball standouts turned entrepreneurs.

Stephen Curry

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Steph Curry is best known for his limitless range and quick handles—but he’s starting to impress many in the business community with his investment savvy, too. Curry’s latest entrepreneurial highlights include co-founding a startup called Slyce, which curates and simplifies social media platforms for celebrities. The startup has managed to raise $900,000 so far this year.

Curry also invested in CoachUp—an online matchmaking platform that links athletes with private coaches. His agreement with CoachUp includes an ongoing partnership with the firm and equity stake in the company.

While it’s too early to tell if he’ll reach the same mogul status as the basketball stars that came before him, it’s clear he’s on the right path.

LeBron James

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The King—as he’s commonly known—is taking his talents to the boardroom, too.

 

Unlike many athletes who work with consultants to manage their business interests, James created his own marketing agency called LRMR to handle everything from negotiating endorsement deals to investing in new businesses. The move not only affords him more control and say over his business dealings, but it also guarantees him a bigger cut of his lucrative contracts, which have ballooned to include endorsements with Nike, Sprite and Bubblicious gum.

In addition, James’ business investments have included a stake in bike maker Cannondale (which he later sold after the company grew to four times its original size) and Beats headphones. He is also the executive producer for Starz network sitcom “Survivor’s Remorse.” Not bad for a four-time MVP.

Michael Jordan

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Michael Jordan is considered by many to be the best basketball player of all time. While he had a huge influence on the sport, he’s had similar success off the court since he retired due to a variety of investments—that include owning several restaurants, car dealerships and sponsorship deals.

While his long-time endorsements with Nike (via the Air Jordan brand), Gatorade and underwear company Hanes have helped the basketball legend generate an impressive income since he retired, it’s his fortuitous investment in the Charlotte Hornets NBA team that made him one of the richest men in the world, according to Forbes.

The athlete-turned-investor was propelled into the billionaires list for the first time last year after his stake in the Hornets increased to $500 million in 2014, partly due to a bidding war over the L.A. Clippers that elevated the value of several NBA teams. Jordan purchased a majority stake in the Hornets back in 2010 and increased his ownership to 90 percent in 2013.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant, retired Lakers National Basketball Association (NBA) player, smiles during the annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The conference gathers attendees to explore solutions to today's most pressing challenges in financial markets, industry sectors, health, government and education. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Kobe Bryant

Famed Los Angeles Laker guard Kobe Bryant only recently retired, but he’s already making inroads in the business world.

In 2014, Bryant launched Kobe Inc.—a company to help evaluate business opportunities and seek out potential investments. Although, the championship-winning athlete is no novice when it comes to deals, having racked up multi-millionaire dollar partnerships with Adidas, McDonalds and computer company Lenovo throughout his NBA career.

So far, his company has invested in Body Armor—a sports drink that includes other investors like Mike Repole, a man who also co-founded the company that launched Vitaminwater and Smartwater—and in March filed papers to trademark his popular nickname “Black Mamba” with the hopes of marketing it for future apparel or shoes. Bryant’s company has also trademarked other popular phrases such as “HeroVillain,” “Create Forever,” “Dream Epic” and “Friends Hang Sometimes, Banners Hang Forever.”

David Robinson

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The transition from basketball star to successful entrepreneur can be tough, but former San Antonio Spurs player David Robinson—who owns two NBA championship rings—has managed to do it with apparent ease.

The basketball hall of famer co-founded Admiral Capital Group, a real estate private equity firm, alongside former Goldman Sachs Group investor Daniel Bassichis back in 2007. Robinson’s firm invests in real estate across the country that ranges between $15 million and $50 million, according to Bloomberg, and last year acquired 11 properties worth roughly $400 million.

Not content to simply run a successful firm, the entrepreneur also launched a hospitality internship program for high school students called the Admiral Hospitality Scholars in 2013 and founded an elementary school called The Carver Academy. The school, named after George Washington Carver, is located in Texas and launched in 2001.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal—or “Shaq” as his fans affectionately call him—has come a long way since his days rattling the rim. The player who was named an All-Star 15 times is one savvy businessman with a net worth of approximately $290 million.

While some retired athletes and celebrities prefer to put their name on products or promote their involvement in projects as much as possible, O’Neal does the opposite. He has discreetly invested in Five Guys food franchises, Vitamin Water and even a pre-IPO investor in Google, all without much fanfare about his involvement. His other business ventures include Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants, several car wash businesses, and 24-Hour fitness gyms (a chain of workout clubs across the country).

Not every business decision Shaq has made has been a slam dunk, though. O’Neal recently described how he infamously passed up a lucrative chance to launch Starbucks stores in black communities. Magic Johnson would later go on to take over the deal and in 2010 sold his interest in those franchises back to Starbucks for an estimated $70 million.

Dwayne Wade

Dwayne Wade

Dwayne Wade’s not waiting until he retires to launch an all-star business.

In addition to endorsements with Gatorade, Pepperidge Farm and Swiss watch brand Hublot, he also has an ongoing partnership with MISSION Athletecare that lets him co-create and co-develop athletic gear the company sells. MISSION was launched in 2009 by Josh Shaw and a group of professional athletes that include Wade, tennis star Serena Williams and MLB player David Wright. The company creates temperature-control technologies for athletes that are intended to improve performance and recovery.

Additionally, the basketball star shocked the sports world when he left a contract with long-time sponsor Nike to sign a multi-millionaire dollar deal with Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning. The entrepreneurial deal affords him his own brand within the company and even some equity.