7 NBA stars who became successful entrepreneurs

Abu Mubarik November 22, 2023
LeBron James/Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

NBA players are among some of the most influential athletes in the world. Their influence is felt on and off the field. Besides the fat paychecks they receive on the court, they make additional money through endorsement deals. In recent times, more and more NBA players are adding entrepreneurship to their retirement plans.

Below are seven influential NBA players who became entrepreneurs.

LeBron James

LeBron James now has an estimated net worth of $1 billion, making him the first active NBA player to become a billionaire, according to Forbes. The Los Angeles Lakers star James has “maximized his business,” to more than $1.2 billion in pretax earnings. “He has commanded more than $385 million in salary from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA’s highest-paid active player. Off the court, he has raked in upwards of $900 million in income from endorsements and other business ventures,” according to Forbes.

Born on December 30, 1984, in Akron, Ohio, James started playing basketball in his infancy. Basketball soon became a way of life for him and when he joined his elementary school basketball team, he excelled. His Nike endorsement deal came when he was only 18 years old. The basketball star’s partnership with Nike and his deals with brands like AT&T, PepsiCo and Walmart, made him the second-highest-earning athlete in the world recently.

The four-time NBA champion is also behind TV and movie studio SpringHill Entertainment, which helped produce “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” a movie he starred in, which earned $163 million in box office receipts worldwide.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is one of the highest-earning NBA players off the court due to his involvement in multiple business deals. Born Kevin Wayne Durant in Washington in 1988, his father deserted him when he was still an infant. His parents subsequently divorced and as a result, his grandmother raised him with his two siblings in Prince George’s County, Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington.

He started his professional NBA career after he was drafted for the 2007 season by the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Thunder after the team relocated to Oklahoma City. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year for the season. In the 2009 season, he came in third as the Most Improved Player. Durant was named in the first NBA All-Star Game during the 2009-10 season and he became the youngest NBA scoring champion with a point score of 30.1 points.

As his success on the court grew, so did his signing fees and endorsement deals. Prior to the 2010-2011 season, he inked an $86 million five-year contract extension with the Thunder. In 2016, he left the Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors, signing a two-year contract worth $54.3 million and a contract extension in 2018 for $61.5 million. In 2019, he signed for the Brooklyn Nets in a sign-and-trade deal.

Off the court, Durant has enjoyed success with a number of business deals. According to reports, he has made $36 million from endorsement deals with companies like Gatorade, Nike, Degree, and more.

His investment firm, Thirty-Five Ventures, has made at least 75 investments including micro-lender Acorns, stock trading platform Robinhood, esports organization Andbox, and cloud data management firm Rubric.

He recently made a couple of wins with Coinbase and Postmates Delivery Rider. In 2017, he invested $250,000 and reportedly made $13.5 million when the company recently went public. Also, Uber bought Postmates for $2.65 billion, valuing Durant’s stake at $15 million.

Junior Bridgeman

Junior Bridgeman, a former NBA star turned entrepreneur owns Bridgeman Sports and Media. His company recently became the new owner of Ebony Magazine after a successful bid to purchase the bankrupt media firm for $14 million.

The ex-NBA star played for the Milwaukee Bucks for 10 seasons before moving to the Los Angeles Clippers to ply his trade for two seasons. Upon retiring, he built and sold one of the largest U.S. restaurant franchisees.

Ebony wasn’t his first attempt to buy a media organization. He made an effort to acquire Sports Illustrated but later abandoned the idea. He became the owner of Lenexa-based Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Company whose distribution territory includes Kansas, Missouri, and Southern Illinois.

Magic Johnson

Born Earvin Johnson Jr., Magic Johnson is an NBA Hall of Famer who was first inducted in 2002 for his individual career, and again in 2010 as a member of the Dream Team. His illustrious career in the NBA spanned seventeen years, from 1979 to 1996.

First drafted in 1979, Johnson entered the league and played point guard for the Lakers for 13 seasons. His career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, 12 All-Star games, and 10 All-NBA First and Second Team nominations.

While enjoying his career as an NBA player, Johnson had an eye for business. His desire to become a businessman when his basketball career ended made him build a connection with legendary super-agent, Michael Ovitz, to teach him how to be a successful businessman.

Today, he has several businesses. Last month, Forbes reported that he is now a billionaire. His new economic status follows a lucrative post-basketball career as an investor in professional sports teams, movie theaters, Starbucks cafes, and a health insurance provider, the magazine wrote. Forbes estimates Johnson’s net worth to be $1.2 billion.

Stephen Curry

Since joining the Warriors, Stephen Curry has consistently ranked among the highest-paid players. Curry started with the Warriors in 2009 as the seventh overall pick in the draft and has since accumulated a huge fortune.

In August 2021, he signed a contract extension worth 215 million dollars over four years and would earn 48 million dollars in 2022/23, continuing to rise until earning 59.6 million dollars in the final year of the contract in 2025/26, Marca stated.

Curry has endorsement partners such as Under Armour, Chase, Vivo, eHi, Nissan/Infiniti, Brita, Bubble, and JBL, and generates an estimated $42 million in off-court income.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, since retiring from the NBA, took to entrepreneurship and also became one of the few Black billionaires in the world. A large chunk of his wealth comes from his paycheck from Nike, which has been his biggest financial and marketing backer.

In 2021, he topped the list of highest-paid athletes of all time. He topped the rankings with $2.62 billion, with at least $1 billion coming from Nike as royalties since he retired from the NBA, per Sportico.

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal is arguably one of the best things to happen in the NBA. The 7′ 1″, 325-pound giant, grew up in a low-income household situated in the ‘Projects’ of Newark, New Jersey.

Since retiring from the NBA, he has reinvented himself as an entrepreneur, with a vast portfolio that includes 155 Five Guys restaurants, 40 24-Hour Fitness gyms, and a major stake in Authentic Brands, which owns Forever 21, Barneys New York, JC Penney, and Reebok.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 22, 2023

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