This Year’s NBA Finals Are Once Again a Battle of Entrepreneurs

May 30, 2018, 6:35 PM UTC

For the fourth consecutive year, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the NBA Finals in what promises to be a battle of skill, grit and, yes, entrepreneurship.

Of course, each team’s owner and general manager possesses a level of business acumen to make it this far, but let’s narrow our focus a bit. The 2018 NBA Finals will be an entrepreneurship battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. You thought I was going to say Stephen Curry, didn’t you?

Curry and James will wage another battle — the battle of each team’s superstars, the faces of the franchises — but when it comes to investment, Durant appears to have an edge on his teammate. And, if we really want to stick to the game itself, Durant is the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

But anyway, back to business, Durant and James have both proven to be immaculate businessmen. The latter recently grew his investment in Liverpool Football Club by roughly five times thanks to a 2% stake he acquired for $6.5 million in 2011. With the English soccer team recently reaching the Champions League Final, that stake is now said to be worth approximately $32 million, according to ESPN.

James’ impressive portfolio doesn’t stop there. He made a cool $30 million-plus when Apple acquired Beats by Dre for $3 billion in 2014. It’s believed to be the biggest equity cash payout for a pro athlete, well, ever. And before that, James and business partner Maverick Carter sank $1 million into the Blaze Pizza chain, which is now worth an estimated $45 million.

How about James’ opponent, Durant? The nine-time all-star has cozied up to life in the Bay Area, so much so that he founded his own Silicon Valley start-up, the Durant Company. The venture has investments in tech companies such as Postmates and Acorns, as well as a number of entertainment developments and hotel and restaurant properties. A New York Times profile called Durant himself “Silicon Valley’s hottest start-up.”

Some of Durant’s other investments include Coinbase (digital currency), Pieology (pizza) and LimeBike (bike-share). The Durant Company usually throws in $250,000 to $1 million during the early stages. Just like the company’s positioning among Silicon Valley, Durant told ESPN that his dealings and education in business became a lot easier once he came to the Bay. “I have mentors like Ron Conway [early-stage Google and PayPal investor] and Ben Horowitz [co-founder of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz] and good friendships with guys like Chris Lyons [chief of staff for Andreessen Horowitz]. I mean, you just go to dinner with these guys, hang out with them.”

On the court, Durant and James come Thursday night will look to cement their legacies among the best to ever play the game. James is vying for his fourth NBA title in his eighth straight appearance in the Finals. Durant will seek yet another Finals MVP in a career that has established him as one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers ever.

But another legacy seems to be pretty clear: no matter what happens in these Finals, Durant and James are making enough smart investments to make sure they’ll have plenty of money post-NBA.

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