It is no longer news that the famous American Basketball player, Kobe Bryant is dead, but there are lots of lessons Nigerian athletes and other business owners should learn from the life of the great man popularly called ‘Black Mamba.’
Aside from being a brand-builder, do you know he left a firm that worth more than $2 billion in assets, with investments in dozens of technology, media and data companies? This is a story that should attract his Nigerian counterparts, especially footballers that got broke shortly after a breakthrough.
Bryant and Gianna, his 13-year-old daughter, died on Sunday in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California at the age of 41.
Life outside B’ball Court
Before leaving the court in 2013, the famous athlete diversified his career by breaking into the investing, when he co-founded venture capital firm, Bryant Stibel, along with Jeff Stibel, Founder, Web.com.
With the birth of the company, ‘Black Mamba’ followed the model of a select number of other sports legends like Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson (1987) that invested in Starbucks and New York’s LaGuardia airport. The legends have been able to transform skills developed on the court into business success.
While some Nigerian athletes, who started earlier and probably richer than Bryant spend fortunes on clubbing, luxury vehicles, mansions or lifestyles they can’t sustain during downtimes, Bryant’s firm has more than $2 billion in assets, with investments in dozens of technology, media and data companies. Don’t forget that he achieved all these before he clocked 41 years.
Today, Bryant Stibel claims at least 10 successful exits, including Dell and Alibaba. It also has investments in Fortnite creator Epic Games, digital payment company, Klarna, and household products firm, The Honest Company.
In an interview with CNBC in September 2019, he said, “You’ve got to have strong entrepreneurs, that’s really the key for us is looking at the people. Yes, it’s important to see those returns, right? But it’s also important to have a great opportunity, great relationships with our investors, and great opportunities with our entrepreneurs to help them grow and put them in situations where they can be successful.”
Also, Bryant made millions of dollars on his investment in sports drink Body Armor, which in 2018 boosted its valuation by selling a stake to Coca Cola. Bryant’s reputation as a star athlete and brand builder has been one of the portfolio’s keys to success.
Quotes of business owners, athletes about him before his demise
Skincare brand Art of Sport founders, Brian Lee and Matthias Metternich said, “When Kobe puts his stamp of approval on something and really gets behind you as a partner, the world of sports and everyone across the spectrum of the sports industry takes note and you’re suddenly validated in a way that most startups just don’t experience until much further on.
“I think Kobe’s somebody who’s been super fun to kind of pick his brain about some things,” Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps told the Wall Street Journal in August. “We’ve had the privilege and the opportunity in our sports to be successful and reach the pinnacle and we know what it takes to get to that top level. So now, it’s always the challenge for the athletes to find that drive outside of the sport.”
In 2016, Bryant founded Granity Studios, a media company that focuses on creative storytelling around sports.
Through this company, the basketball star wrote and narrated a short film called “Dear Basketball,” which won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 2018. Granity has also released a set of books for young adults, along with Bryant’s autobiography, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play.”
Nike partnered with Bryant and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club to launch a youth basketball league, called the Mamba League, in 2017, to give hundreds of kids’ free access to the sport. Bryant later created the Mamba Sports Academy to provide broader athletic and lifestyle training to competitors at all levels in a number of sports.
Bryant was on his way to a Mamba Sports Academy game on Sunday when the helicopter crashed.
“We are devastated by today’s tragic news. We extend our deepest sympathies to those closest to Kobe, especially his family and friends,” Nike said in a statement on Sunday. “He was one of the greatest athletes of his generation and has had an immeasurable impact on the world of sport and the community of basketball. He was a beloved member of the Nike family. We will miss him greatly. Mamba forever.”
Nike held a “Mamba Day” to honour the retirement of the celebrated but controversial athlete in 2016. Nike stuck with Bryant even after he was charged in late 2003 with the sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman. The case was dropped a year later after the woman declined to testify, and Bryant apologized for his behaviour though he always maintained the interaction was consensual and he had not broken the law.
Bryant has also been involved in the NBA’s efforts to expand its audience beyond the United States, particularly in China. In 2015, he worked with Alibaba Group to release the basketball star’s documentary “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” through its Tmall Magic Box TV in China.
The deal also involved working with Bryant to create a new social media platform “bringing new avenues of connecting China’s young people directly to Kobe and his philosophies,” according to a press release from Alibaba announcing the partnership. Additionally, the company sells a number of Kobe-branded products on its retail platform.
Bryant also had endorsement deals with a number of other brands throughout his career, including McDonald’s (MCD), Sprite, Nintendo (NTDOF) and Turkish Airline.