The Good, the Bad and the Unknown in Athlete Investments

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Whenever I hear of crypto crash I think of the The Simpsons episode where the tech bubble bursts and a young startup nerd donates shares of Lisa’s company from a roll of toilet paper. (The joke was that tech stocks were so plentiful and worthless that their only concrete value was to use them to wipe your ass.) I don’t think we’re there yet with cryptocurrency – and I’m saying that largely because the shows I watch have still poked fun at Bitcoin at this point – but backers of Ether or TerraUSD are sweating profusely as the markets have plunged further.

When the last plunge occurred in January, my colleague Grace McDermott wrote about supposedly at-risk athletes like Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers when they opted to receive compensation in the form of crypto instead of cash in recent contracts and agreements. At that time, the Bitcoin low was $36,000, down from the November high of $96,000.

Now it is hovering just above $30,000 which is a key number that analysts say this could point to an even bigger drop if he can’t hold it. And that’s about the extent of my knowledge of crypto – or at least what I read before I got confused.

So instead of regurgitating what Grace wrote in a different way, or co-opting a co-worker joke into our Slack channel on “What’s a bigger bet: a James Harden or Bitcoin extension?” I’m going to look at three different investments for athletes that worked, screwed up, or are still going. (I’ll leave out scams because losing money illegally isn’t really an investment.)

The Good: Al Harrington’s Viola Marijuana Company

The former NBA player assembles a team of $100 million black entrepreneurs in the weed industry in a bid to bring more diversity to the $25 billion industry in which only 2% of the business owners are people of color. In an interview with ForbesHarrington spoke about how his community has been negatively and disproportionately affected by the drug police, and how black and brown people are struggling to get a foothold in the industry – or get out of jail on charges marijuana-related.

Viola’s chairman has numerous current and former NBA players including DeMarcus Cousins, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Ben Gordon and Josh Childress. The future of cannabis is a safer bet than anything I’ve seen from cryptocurrency. The weed is out of the sachets (and now available in childproof jars), the joint has been smoked, and the government isn’t putting a stop to a company that could generate $65 billion in sales by now. 2030.

Bad Boy: Dennis Rodman’s Bad Boy Vodka

The quirky athlete, who was seen drinking Mind Erasers while training on ESPN the last dance, followed in the footsteps of other vodka pioneers like P Diddy and 50 Cent with a spirit of its own. Unlike Ciroq or Effen vodka, Bad Boy Vodka doesn’t seem to make a profit – or even exist. BadBoyVodka.com is a dead URLand I couldn’t find any bottles to buy on the internet.

Maybe Rodman’s former drinking pal Kim Jong-un bought the supply and is stocking it up for the former Detroit Pistons Bad Boy’s next visit. Or Rodman, who has been in rehab for his drinking in the pastthrew Bad Boy Vodka off the wagon when he allegedly jumped on it afterwards a DUI 2018. It’s unclear if he’s still sober, but hopefully he left that lifestyle behind with his failed vodka business.

The Unknown: NBA Players and Wine

This one fascinates me because everyone is an oenophile in the NBA now. james lebron want a glass of wine after a loss to the Trail Blazers this season. carmelo anthony made the cover of Wine Spectator. I personally tasted a glass of rosé from Dwyane Wade’s Wade Cellars, hand-poured by the Finals MVP himself, to Food & Wine a few years ago. CJ McCollum enjoyed the Willamette Valley wine scene so much while in Portland that he bought his own vineyard.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get into the ever-profitable alcohol industry, but gaining legitimacy in wine is difficult, especially with the predominantly white and extremely exclusive perception of the business.

Carlton McCoy, one of only three black master sommeliers out of 500 total master sommeliers in America, put it succinctly when he told the New York Times“The wine is marketed as a luxurious, even entry-level pinot grigio, but that’s not what people of color are associated with.”

Maverick Carter, LeBron’s business manager, is one of McCoy’s mentors, which is why I find this topic so interesting. (I hauled McCoy’s wine shipments around the hotel during my time on the loading dock when we were both at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado, and he’s one of the most charismatic people and hardest working people I’ve ever encountered, so that also plays a role in my curiosity.)

Ideally, McCoy can help NBA players shake off the arrogance seemingly ingrained in wine drinkers’ DNA, and if that happens, it will turn a dubious investment into a soon-to-be-tapped profit.

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