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Volume 26 No. 49
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"The Boardroom" Shows How Athletes Can Branch Out Into Media

Williams feels today's athletes are more “fluent” when discussing business, technology and media
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK

Pro athletes are branching out more and more into media and other investments these days, and that intersection has been the focus of Kevin Durant’s new series on ESPN+, dubbed “The Boardroom.” The first season that rolled out this year saw six episodes cover issues like team ownership, sneakers and social media with guests like LeBron James, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer. On Day 1 at the Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit, the show’s host, Jay Williams, joined ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell and Thirty Five Ventures’ Rich Kleiman, who has long served as Durant’s business agent.
 
GETTING SOPHISTICATED: Williams talked about how athletes today are more “fluent” when discussing business, technology or media opportunities. He gave the recent example of R.J. Hampton, who on Tuesday went on ESPN to declare he will play overseas vs. going to college. Williams noted that Hampton asked him whether he should form an S Corporation or an LLC for his brand, and that’s not something he would have thought of even as a pro athlete -- let alone as an 18-year-old. Williams: “Those are the conversations that we have with certain athletes on the show to showcase their knowledge and also to pass that information forward to the next young kid.” Speaking to the high level of conversation on the show, Kleiman said, “In terms of the content, it’s exactly what we envisioned. I think the idea behind us giving the program such a traditional name was to show that the boardroom is where these athletes are actually having these conversations.”
 
WHY KD? Schell said what made Durant “unique” as a target for this type of programming was his relationship with Kleiman and the way they see the world. Kleiman added that Durant was “one of the few that could do this because it was important for us to not present that we felt like we were the arbiters of this world, or that we knew anything that somebody else may not know" Kleiman. It was "more about who was willing to be honest and vulnerable and talk and learn.” Kleiman, naturally, got a question from the audience about whether Durant could grow his global brand more by going to N.Y. in free agency. He sarcastically responded, “What athletes in New York have global brands?”