Entrepreneurial athletes are on the rise

Justin Whitner | Staff Writer

October 18, 1984, Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan Nike sneakers were banned from being worn on the court in any game.

The NBA, according to Forbes, notified Nike and the Chicago Bulls that the black-and-red sneaker from that day’s game broke the “uniformity of uniform rule.” He would immediately have to stop wearing the colorway on court.

Nearly 35 years later, Forbes reported Nike’s revenue from the Jordan Brand line hit nearly $2.9 billion.

Ever since the day Jordan’s sneakers were banned and then reinstated into the NBA, stars have taken numerous chances to make money off the court. Shoes turned to other deals such as T-shirt brands, sport drinks and medical brands such as pain reliever pads. Today’s players, including Damian Lillard and Victor Oladipo, have released music. Kyrie Irving has his own solo film, Uncle Drew. Entertainment has been a key in the NBA for decades. Especially rap music.

Rapper 2 Chainz recently released an album called Rap or Go to the League that a Def Jam news release said “[celebrates] black excellence and [focuses] on the power of education and entrepreneurship.” The release also said the title “challenges the notion that the only way out of the inner city is either to become a rapper or a ball player.” The album was backed with “A&R” – artist and repertoire – by NBA star LeBron James.

Rap music isn’t the only investment NBA stars are making. Future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant is making an impact as well. Bryant made his first investment in the brand Body Armor, a sports drink founded in 2011, for roughly 10 percent of the company. Bleacher Report said Bryant made the investment in March 2014, putting in around $6 million. His stake is now worth approximately $200 million. “The Black Mamba” also won an Oscar for best animated short film for Dear Basketball, becoming the first athlete to ever win an Oscar.

Bryant isn’t the only Laker from the now or the past making moves off the floor. James went to the Lakers for many reasons. While usually drawing comparison to Jordan on the floor, he also can be mentioned in the same breath with his off-the-court involvements. James is starring in the sequel to Space Jam. The original starred Jordan. James has produced numerous TV show specials since he has been in Los Angeles, including The Shop on HBO.

Whatever the investment or sponsorship, athletes in the NBA have found it pretty easy to find ways to make money and stay relevant off the court. The future looks promising for athletes to be more than just ballplayers.

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