When LeBron James left the Cavs to sign with the Lakers earlier this month, he left a chunk of change on the table. Under NBA rules, Cleveland could have rained down more than $200 million over five years on the man many consider the best player in the league. Los Angeles was allowed to pony up a mere $154 million over four years.
But there’s a great equalizer on the West Coast: Hollywood, where top current NBA stars aren’t just the face of films; they’re producers and financiers too. It didn’t start with Curry, who just formed his own production company after signing a multiyear development pact with Sony Pictures Entertainment.
This is a different kind of game, but one that’s just as appealing to those who are ultracompetitive. Let’s call them the NBA’s Media All-Stars.
Los Angeles Lakers
He’s King James in the world of media content too. His SpringHill Entertainment, founded in 2013 with Maverick Carter, provides shows for broadcast TV (game show “The Wall”), cable (civil rights doc “Rise Up”), streaming and film. “Best Shot,” for YouTube Red, debuts July 18 and features former NBA star Jay Williams mentoring promising high school players. Collaborators on other projects include Antoine Fuqua, Mike O’Malley and rap star Drake.
Meanwhile, Uninterrupted, the digital media company James launched in 2014 on his own dime, has parlayed a capital infusion of $15.8 million from Time Warner into a lineup featuring more than 30 shows, mostly by and about sports stars. The Uninterrupted YouTube channel has more than 175,000 subscribers.
Golden State Warriors
Durant’s Thirty Five Media, founded in 2016 with his manager, Rich Kleiman, is developing basketball-themed projects for Apple (with Imagine) and Fox Sports. Thirty Five also hands out assists, partnering with YouTube to help other high-profile athletes launch channels. One notable taker: NFL cornerback Richard Sherman. Durant’s own YouTube channel is approaching 700,000 subscribers.
He recently formed Oh Dipp Prods. and scored a critical hit with the film “Crossroads,” about a lacrosse team composed of at-risk teens, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
His ZZ Prods. developed the critically lauded 2017 film “Shot in the Dark,” about the trials and tribulations of Chicago’s Orr Academy basketball team.
Golden State Warriors
“Dre Days,” for Turner Sports, is a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his doings during his free time on the road. And he’ll again join Turner Sports as special on-course correspondent at the 2018 PGA Championship.
With his “Uncle Drew” opening to more than $15 million late last month for Lionsgate and already surpassing $38 million worldwide, the Celtics star is reportedly looking to launch his own production company.
The Hornets point guard is a partner with Saints quarterback Drew Brees in Argent Pictures, founded by Benjamin Renzo, Ryan Ahrens and Jill Ahrens. Projects have included “Hacksaw Ridge,” “The Birth of a Nation” and “American Made.” Former NBA All-Star Michael Finley and NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks are also partners.
Also testing the waters: Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin