Kevin Durant's decision to join Golden State was not just motivated by basketball, but by proximity to Silicon Valley as well.
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While the entire sports world continues to take in the reality of one of the three best players joining a team that broke the NBA’s win record last season, a portion of his first-person essay via the Player’s Tribune could prove to be an insight into how professional athletes decide where to play throughout their careers when they reach free agency.
“I am also at a point in my life where it is of equal importance to find an opportunity that encourages my evolution as a man: moving out of my comfort zone to a new city and community which offers the greatest potential for my contribution and personal growth,” Durant wrote. “With this in mind, I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.”
It was no secret that the Golden State Warriors pitched Durant about the numerous off-the-court options that the Bay Area had to offer to further expand his personal brand and invest his considerable wealth.
“The Warriors’ ownership group is loaded with Silicon Valley executives and is tied to many other tech leader,” wrote Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. “And if Durant is looking to solidify his post-career life, it’s hard to do better than that, as Iguodala could testify to him.”
As The New York Times documented last year, the Warriors and owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have already installed tech startup principles into running a professional sports franchise that also happens to be the only professional basketball team for the Bay Area and of course Silicon Valley.
The traveling contingent for the Warriors that pitched Durant about playing in the Bay Area also included Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala. In addition to being core teammates of Durant’s that he will want to learn how he would play with, they are also are heavily involved with the technology and entrepreneurship community themselves and have taken advantage of their raised stature in the technology hub of the globe with investments and partnerships with products.
Igoudala perhaps most notably has been an active member in the sports technology world. Iguodala also said last year that he has gained knowledge and guidance from the Warriors ownership group of Lacob and Guber, successful venture capitalists in their own right. Per the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement though (Igoudala is Vice President in the NBPA), he is unable to invest in any of their ventures. Iguodala also signed on as a style director for online consignment clothing retailer, Twice.
Additionally, when his alma mater the University of Arizona came through the Bay Area to play Stanford last year, he even wore Google Glass to the game right when it came to market.
Thompson most notably has a partnership with ShotTracker, a “smart” shooting device that he definitely has proven to be an ideal fit to promote. He also participated in a virtual basketball camp in which ShotTracker users send Thompson their shooting data and in turn he was able to give elite level coaching advice to anyone with the device, anywhere in the world.
Two-time MVP Stephen Curry has also made entrepreneurial waves of his own when he invested in private coaching app CoachUp, as well as starting his own social media app Slyce when he felt his Twitter feed began to get too cluttered with the overwhelming amount of followers he was accumulating.
In short, the Golden State Warriors from the top down are very tech savvy and led Durant to leave the only team he’s ever known for the Bay Area.
Will this be a trend going forward though?
Most athletes traditionally have used their large amounts of income to transition into alternative careers such as film or television and also starting companies in a wide variety of fields. But as technology continues to be an enticing investment, it will likely be the new route athletes will continue to gravitate towards to set up their careers after their playing days.
With the Bay Area being the hub of the tech industry, Durant could be the first of many athletes that will look to stake claim in the region to be a lot closer to the entrepreneurship and investing world. In the revenue sharing and salary cap era where most of the on-court wages in professional sports are comparable from team-to-team, the off-the-court earning potential through the technology space could begin to play an integral role to team’s on-court successes. Which of course would only continue to help the Warriors.