Retired L.A. Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, told CNBC in 2016 he hoped people would remember him more for investing than basketball in 20 years.
“Playing basketball, the focus is always on winning — winning championships, winning championships, winning championships,” Bryant said during a CNBC “Squawk on the Street” interview.
“Now, championships come and go. Right? There’s going to be another team that wins an NBA Championship, another player that wins another MVP award. But if you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation.”
Bryant founded venture capital firm Bryant Stibel in 2013 with Jeff Stibel, previously CEO of Web.com and The Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation. Bryant also personally invested in sports drink company Bodyarmor in 2014, turning a $6 million investment into about $200 million (on paper) when Coca-Cola acquired a minority stake in 2018, according to ESPN.
“I got tired of telling people I loved business as much as I did basketball because people would look at me like I had three heads,” Bryant told ESPN in 2017. “But I do.”
Bryant told CSQ magazine in 2018 he initiated contact with Stibel to learn more about the business world. The pair met several times for meals before deciding to work together in 2013 and then later publicly announcing their new company by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2016, when Bryant did his CNBC interview.
Stibel couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Bryant Stibel has invested in companies including NetZero, Simpli and The Honest Co. Bryant told CNBC adding his name to the venture capital firm he founded with Stibel “comes with a certain stigma,” which led the two men to hold off on adding Bryant’s name until they built credibility. Other athletes, including NBA players Steph Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant, have put their names behind investment firms while still playing.
Similar to other athletes such as ex-49ers quarterback Steve Young, Bryant didn’t wait until his playing days concluded to start thinking about the next chapter of his life.
“I started to see the passion and dedication from entrepreneurs. I related to it because it’s how I approached the game every day,” Bryant told CSQ. “I also knew that when my basketball career was over, I’d be in the same position as them, looking to start a business and new career.”