Growing up watching some of the greatest players to ever play their sport like Shaq, Kobe, LeBron, and A-Rod are things I'll never forget. Practicing the Kobe fadeaway, lowering the hoop to 8 ft. to do LeBron's famous one hand dunk, and practicing my baseball swing to look like A Rod's was something I spent hours trying to master as a kid. As I got older and their careers progressed, I started learning more about their greatness outside of their sport as well. I learned that used their fame to position themselves for success after they were done playing. They met with people in other industries who were also great and made investments and business moves that made them more money than they ever did playing. In this post, I want to highlight 5 athletes who not only were highly successful in their playing days but also in business.
Magic's career spanned 12 years in the NBA for the Lakers where he won multiple championships and changed the game by playing the point guard position at 6'9. While he was with the Lakers, he spent his time getting ready for life after basketball as early as his rookie year. His teammates used to laugh at him when he said he would one day become a successful businessman but with a net worth of over $600 million, he has proved them wrong. The legendary Dr. Buss took him under his wing and started showing him the Laker business as well as introducing him to many of the business stars and celebrities that filled Staples Arena. Those lessons translated when he purchased his first investment: a 4.5 percent stake in the LA Lakers for $10 million which had risen to a value of $50 million when he sold it in 2010. With that money, he started Magic Johnson Enterprises. Magic Johnson was able to convince Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks that he could make Starbucks profitable in urban communities. Howard took a chance on him and because Magic overdelivered and fulfilled his promise, he was able to sell his share which made him about 100 million. Then started the Magic Johnson Theatres which were placed in urban communities and also teamed up with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors – to form Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds that develops properties in under-served urban neighborhoods. Because of his strong track record in business, he was able to team up with some partners with serious wealth and purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2 billion dollars. There is a lot you can learn from Magic Johnson as you look at how he built himself up with strategic steps and kept proving that he was capable. All these experiences allowed him to increase his net worth and become one of the most successful athletes off the court.
Shaq played 19 seasons in the NBA and was one of the most dominating big men to ever play the game. After getting his first NBA check and blowing $1 million in a day, he said he wouldn't end up broke and started educating himself on financial literacy and having revenue after he finished playing basketball. Fast forward to today, Shaq has many businesses in his portfolio. He owns 155 Five Guys franchises which is more than 10% of the companies franchises, 17 Auntie Anne's, and endorsement deals with Fruity Pebbles, Muscle Milk, Vitamin Water, and AriZona Cream Soda. He owns 40 24 Hour Fitness Locations and the Met Miami, which is a residential high rise with over 1,000 units. He is the part owner of several night clubs, as well as a movie theatre. Shaq is also a savvy investor and invested in Google before they went public in 2004 when their stock was trading at $85/share. It is now around $1,200/share. He also endorses The General Auto Insurance as well as owns 150 car washes. When it comes to a diverse business portfolio, Shaq is the goal!
There must be something in the water at Staples Center because Kobe Bryant, another Laker great has applied the same Mamba Mentality to business that he did on the court. Another player that had his sights on life after basketball since his rookie year, I heard in an interview once that he used to write on plane trips and in the hotel when his teammates would be playing cards and relaxing. He would study different writing schemes and learn how to formulate stories. A year after retiring, Kobe won an Oscar for his short film, "Dear Basketball" and it is no accident he won it because he had been preparing for it for 20 years! His most publicized business investment would most likely be in the sports drink, Body Armor. Back in 2014, Kobe purchased a 10% stake for 6 million and it is now worth over 200 million! He has also recently come out with new performance-driven body care brand, Art Of Sport that is specifically made for athletes. He has also partnered with Jeff Stibel and started a venture capital company called BryantStibel and it is a $100 million investment fund that was set to focus on media, technology, and data related companies. As hard as Kobe worked in his playing days, it is evident that he is putting the same effort and focus into his business career and I feel like the sky is the limit for him.
Not only will LeBron go down as one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball, but he will also go down as one of the greatest people ever in terms of affecting the culture and engaging in social change while he is still playing. Recently with his move to LA, he has opened himself up for more business success after basketball. He started a digital media company, Uninterrupted as well as his own production company, SpringHill Entertainment. One of his biggest accomplishments that is very personal to him is his I Promise School that he started in the fall of 2018. In terms of business, he signed a lifetime deal with Nike that is said to be worth about a billion dollars and he had an equity stake in Beats Headphones and received a large sum when Apple acquired them for 3 billion dollars. LeBron also partnered with Fenway Sports Group in 2011; James received a small minority stake in soccer club Liverpool, owned by FSG in exchange for certain marketing rights. The value of the club has grown from $552 million in 2011 to a recent $1.9 billion. He also backed startup franchise Blaze Pizza. It is the fastest-growing restaurant chain ever, and the value of the investment by James and his partners has soared from $1 million to $25 million, according to ESPN. No one can say that LeBron isn't a businessman and he has shown that over and over that many of us can learn from the way that he moves and operates.
According to Forbes, over A Rod's over 22 years of playing baseball he made an MLB record of $480 million dollars in career earnings. That alone is a lot of money and would make someone not want to work another day. But A-Rod didn't stop with that and realized he could build his business portfolio and still have money coming in. Recognizing the value of real estate, at 22 years old he bought his first duplex. He then created a holding company called A-Rod Corp and the real estate arm, Monument Capital Management, which owns about 10,000 multifamily units, and Newport Property Construction, which has managed the development of over $1.5 billion worth of properties. He is also heavily invested in sports and wellness gyms owning properties in many locations. He is a Shark Tank investor where people pitch their ideas of their product or company and give them a chance to invest in them. While he has one of the best baseball players of all time, he will also go down as one of the greatest athletes turned businessmen as well.
As athletes, many of us have access to resources and people that can help us while we are going along our journey but also in our next phase of life. Knowing how to use the resources at hand, as well as looking for things that you are passionate about is something that we should all look into because as we all know, the ball will stop bouncing one day.