LEBRON JAMES, KEVIN DURANT and KOBE BRYANT are among a growing number of basketball players that "hope to build substantial entertainment companies that tap into the billions of dollars that Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are pouring into original programming," according to Brooks Barnes of the N.Y. TIMES. TONY PARKER, BLAKE GRIFFIN and STEVE NASH also "have scripted projects in production or development." So far, the "most serious" player to dive into entertainment has been James, whose SpringHill Entertainment production firm has "financial backing from Warner Bros." SpringHill co-Founder & CEO MAVERICK CARTER said, "As the number of platforms and distribution channels grows ... there is a big need for unique content and quality storytelling that can cut through the noise." Barnes notes while James is "not sitting in many production meetings" since he is still playing, Bryant is "taking the opposite approach to building his Granity Studios." Granity CMO MOLLY CARTER said, "He’s working on a bunch of novels -- fiction, but rooted in sport -- and will be building shows and films from there, original from his own head." In the near term, Bryant "has a basketball-analysis show, 'Detail,' headed to ESPN." Durant said, "LeBron has done such a great job so far. It's like, wow, this can actually be done." Durant in April launched a YouTube Channel "dedicated to his off-court life." Durant's media company, Thirty Five Media, "aims to increase revenue on the channel with a twist on the endorsement deal." Durant's manager and Thirty Five Media Partner RICH KLEIMAN said, “You may not get Kevin Durant the spokesman -- he can only personally represent so many brands authentically -- but you can get branded content" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16).
SEAL THE DEAL: VARIETY's Justin Kroll noted following a "heated bidding war, Legendary Entertainment has landed the spec 'Hustle,'" with Springhill Entertainment and Roth/Kirschenbaum Films producing. The script had bids from "four studios before Legendary ultimately won out with a high six-figure sale." The project "follows a washed-up basketball scout who discovers a Chinese streetball phenom and sees him as his ticket back to the NBA." Following this sale and the news that James will be "producing a 'House Party' reboot at New Line, James will officially become a member of the Producer’s Guild" (VARIETY.com, 2/14).