"They're Playing Basketball, Without That Basketball"

My Weekend With The NBPA Brotherhood of 450 NBA Players

“You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far” - The Notorious B.I.G.

As someone who gathers incredible business leaders together in community for a living, the gig I had last week in The Bahamas for the NBPA was a dream come true. Truth be told I’m a lifelong basketball fan, have a decent jump shot every once in awhile and most notably have enjoyed a 25+ year relationship with the league from my days in the music business when I dreamt up an idea for a hip hop record called “B-Balls Best Kept Secret” featuring 12 NBA Players and 12 Hip Hop producers and released it in 1994 through Immortal Records. While we sold about 12 records (I jokingly say I bought 5), I made that album at 23 years old, learned how to negotiate with agents and make an album and began a lifelong relationship with many players and league/union officials.

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) is the union for the current professional basketball players and led by its leader Michelle Roberts and NBA Veteran and NBPA President Chris Paul

Roberts had the foresight to hire Que Gaskins as Chief Brand & Innovation Officer, a legend in sports and culture marketing most famously known for his early days working at Reebok with Allen Iverson. Gaskins is a winner and has an incredible vision.

When Que called to ask me about moderating and curating a concept he and his team created called “Table 450” a discussion with NBA Players on “Alternative Investing” he and I knew exactly who to call. 

I was in love with the crew we were able to bring to the Bahamas for the experience. They were curated not by pedigree and track record (or even IG followers) but rather deep expertise, passion for the giving the power of knowledge to the players and most importantly trust. We also needed someone the players would relate to, someone that embodied both the “culture and the code.” Hands down that was lead by our headline investor Nas, someone I had worked with in the past while an executive at Columbia Records

When you add Damien Lillard rapping during NBA All Star Weekend, me reconnecting with Nas, this was a personal full circle hip-hop moment for me and a win for the culture!

My Starting Five

We were joined in an enriching conversation about investments by NBPA executive committee: NBPA President Chris Paul, Andre Igudola, Jaylen Brown and Garrett Temple. 

Diversity matters in conversations about financial matters. 

Not just in difference in ethnicity but backgrounds as we were all coming from very different perspectives and backgrounds.

Our conversations ranged from Erik Moore defining basic terms around investing and venture capital to Nas talking about building personal brands, co-investing with Ben Horowitz to Andre Igudola talking about the importance of looking in the hometowns and cities these guys come from for opportunities and impact.

The more veteran players like Chris Paul and Andre Igudola clearly have a solid perspective on investments and building the right connections.

Andre Igudola for example most recently joined Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund as a venture partner and as he says, has a “full time job.” Chris Paul’s investment portfolio is diverse and broad and includes projects in social impact.

Jaylin Brown is a student of investments and interned while at Cal with Base Ventures. This young guy is serious about education and is going to have a bright future in his off court endeavors

Needless to say it was an incredible moment in the Bahamas to gather a group of giants who are focused on creating a better future for themselves now and post career. 

In the end perspectives were shared and a bond was created. Not only did we bring an all African-American cast, we are all decorated soldiers in our fields and most importantly committed to giving these guys the best information available.

It bothers me that the investment community can make the world of investments difficult to understand and at certain times come off elitist. Truly thankful for the crew of translators we assembled all with no ego.

After spending a weekend with several NBA players, here’s what I left Bahamas thinking. 

I do think the “LeBron affect” is real. 

Or at least I hope it is. 

The idea that Lebron could grab his must trusted homeboys and send them off to understand business as apprentices is and should be a model for the up and coming athlete. 

Those group of guys who were Lebron’s childhood friends made mistakes but they were given the opportunity to learn (and make mistakes). More players need to entrust and build their infrastructure from scratch when able

Today LeBron’s “Four Horseman” are highly respected in the league and in business. 

How do we scale this and create more Rich Paul’s and Maverick Carters.

There should be an educational track for athletes focusing on their crew, family, wives, etc. 

In fact I would actually build this (holler at me, I’m joking not joking with this one)

Hustle School

“Hustle School” (working title) would be an accelerator run by diverse talent the players can trust and would walk the players thru the fundamentals of “hustle.” How to build a plan for the future. An Accelerator for the crew. 

Sample Courses For Hustle School

  • Why joining a board is important 

  • How to make sure you put the time in in your local city. 

  • How to make sure you don’t just get into “endorsement deals” but you end  up getting equity. 

  • Why your infrastructure matters and how to build you “business bench”

  • How to read the room?

  • Culture Culture Culture 

    • How to do business in China, Africa and Europe

  • Alternative Investments 

    • Venture 

    • Art

    • Opportunity Zones

    • etc. 

  • Brand Partnerships 

  • Building a non profit that’s more than just a 501C3 but a social impact business

  • Managing social media and your voice

  • How to manage the agents and make them work for you

  • Understanding how to research tech investment opportunities   

NBA Players Are The Most Influential Athletes On The Planet

These guys are becoming even more popular as the league is becoming the biggest sport on the planet.

The influence is starting earlier as the next crop of high school prep stars are already building brands before they get to college. 

This influence will only continue and the need for sound business advice by trusted advisors will only increase. 

The NBPA is working hard to serve the needs of the emerging and evolving NBA Player. 

(With Chrysa Chin, EVP, Strategic Engagement & Development at NBPA)

Super honored to have been able to spend this time with my friends at NBPA. As we continue to sit at the center of investors, founders and culture having an understanding of where players see themselves gives us valuable insights as investors. I’m very thankful to continue to be an ally the game I love so much.