The good, the bad, and the unknown in athlete investing


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Whenever I hear about crypto crashes, I think of them Simpsons Episode where the tech bubble bursts and a young startup nerd gives Lisa company stock from a roll of toilet paper. (The joke was that tech stocks were so plentiful and worthless that their only real value was wiping your butt with them.) I don’t think we’re quite there with cryptocurrency — and I’m saying this mostly because the shows I watch have not yet poked fun at bitcoin to this degree – but supporters of Ether or TerraUSD are sweating profusely as the markets have made another dive.

When the last burglary happened in January, my colleague was Grace McDermott wrote about the risks taken by athletes like Odell Beckham Jr. and Aaron Rodgers as they opted to take compensation in the form of crypto instead of cash on recent contracts and deals. At that point, the Bitcoin low was $36,000, down from a high of $96,000 in November.

It’s now hovering just above $30,000, which is a key number for it Analysts say could indicate a further decline if it can’t last there. And that’s about the extent of my crypto knowledge — or at least as far as I’ve read before I got confused.

So rather than rephrasing what Grace wrote or adopting a fellow joke on our Slack channel about “Which is a bigger risk: a James Harden extension or Bitcoin?” I’m going to look at three different athlete investments, that either worked, didn’t work out, or are still a work in progress. (I’ll skip scams because losing money wrongfully isn’t really an investment.)

The Good: Al Harrington’s Viola Marijuana Company

Former NBA player is building a $100 million team of black entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry to bring more diversity to the $25 billion industry, where only 2 percent of business owners are black. In an interview with ForbesHarrington addressed how his community has been negatively and disproportionately impacted by drug policing, and how Blacks and Browns are having a hard time breaking into the industry — or getting their foot out of jail on charges related to marijuana.

Viola’s President has numerous current and former NBA player investors including DeMarcus Cousins, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Ben Gordon and Josh Childress. The future of cannabis is more certain than anything I’ve seen from cryptocurrencies. The weed is out of the bags (and now available in childproof jars), the joint has been smoked and the government is not giving a kibosh to a company that could generate $65 billion in revenue by 2030.

Evil: Dennis Rodman’s Bad Boy Vodka

The eccentric athlete spotted drinking Mind Erasers while working out on ESPNs The last Dance, followed in the footsteps of other vodka pioneers such as P. Diddy and 50 Cent with its own spirit. Unlike Ciroq or Effen Vodka, Bad Boy Vodka doesn’t seem to make a profit – or even exist. is a dead urland I couldn’t find a bottle anywhere on the internet to buy.

Perhaps Rodman’s former drinking buddy Kim Jong-un bought up the stash and is hoarding it for the next time the former Detroit Pistons Bad Boy visits. Or Rodman who has been in rehab for his alcohol use in the pastHe kicked Bad Boy Vodka off the cart when he allegedly jumped on it after it a 2018 DUI. It’s unclear if he’s still sober, but we’re hoping he left that lifestyle behind with his failed vodka venture.

The Unknown: NBA Players and Wine

This one is fascinating to me because now everyone in the NBA is a wine lover. Lebron James Longing for a glass of wine after losing to the Trail Blazers this season. Carmelo Anthony graced the cover of Wine Spectator. I personally tried a glass of rosé from Dwyane Wade’s Wade-Keller, hand-poured by the Finals MVP himself, at Food & Wine a few years ago. CJ McCollum enjoyed the Willamette Valley vino scene so much during his time in Portland that he bought his own vineyard.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to get into the always-profitable alcohol industry, but it’s hard to gain legitimacy in the wine space, especially with the overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly exclusive perception of the business.

Carlton McCoy, one of three Black Master Sommeliers out of a total of 500 Master Somms in America, nailed it when he told the New York Times“Wine is marketed as luxury Pinot Grigio, even entry-level Pinot Grigio, but that’s not what people of color are associated with.”

LeBron CEO Maverick Carter is one of McCoy’s mentors, which is why I find this topic so interesting. (I lugged McCoy’s wine deliveries 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 and hard-working people I’ve ever met, so too plays a role in my curiosity.)

Ideally, McCoy can help NBA players shake off the snootiness that seems to be ingrained in wine drinkers’ DNA, and when that happens it will turn uncertain investments into soon-to-be gains.

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