“It’s generational wealth that we’re trying to build”, Andre Iguodala tells me on a recent call. This isn’t just a bold declaration. Typically for Iguodala there is intent, depth, and a plan behind those words.
Iguodala’s already shown in the first few games of his return to the Golden State Warriors that there’s plenty left in the tank despite this being his 18th season in the league. “I’m home,” he says of his storybook return to where he won three titles in five years as part of one of the greatest teams in NBA history. “Having an opportunity to possibly end my career here couldn’t be written any better.”
Iguodala’s return was business as well as personal
How long he’ll keep playing is still a question mark. “We’ll see how it shapes up,” Iguodala says. “The body feels good but 18 years is a long time and it can take a toll on the brain more so than the body. And that’s the aspect that people don’t understand and really can’t quantify – the stress and the load that the brain takes being a professional athlete.” Iguodala muses, building on one of the themes of his best-selling book, The Sixth Man.
It wasn’t just nostalgia that brought Iguodala back to the Golden State Warriors though. Iguodala has always been known as one of the pioneers in the NBA’s investment world, especially in tech where he’s seen a host of companies he’s invested in go public including Marquetta, Coinbase, Robinhood, Adwords, Onward, Toast and most famously Zoom. His business interests “weighed heavily in the decision” to return, he tells me. “If you look at what the team’s been able to accomplish on the court and the championships we’ve been able to win, but then you look at what myself, Steph, Klay, Draymond, and KD, have been able to accomplish with our investments off the court, and building the network… couldn’t do it anywhere else – Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and just the immense amount of talent that’s there.”
Iguodala delivers for his teammates off the court
There is an immediate tangible benefit to Iguodala bringing his business endeavors back to Golden State for his teammates. In his previous stint with the Warriors, he’d twice hosted an annual “Business in the Bay” dinner bringing together teammates, top tech execs, and investors. Now he’s back, that’s back. And this time he’s had an assist from former teammate Shaun Livingston, who is now in the Golden State front office.
On the eve of the season Iguodala and Livingston teamed up to co-host a dinner featuring an in-depth interview with Roham Gharegozlou, the CEO of Dapper Labs, who created NBA Top Shot, the NFT trading site which has exploded onto the scene over the last year. “That interview itself was so insightful,” Livingston says, pinpointing it as the highlight of the 3-hour event. “It gave everybody a little bit better understanding of what NFTs are.”
No surprise it was the chosen topic as Iguodala has been “fully submerged” in the blockchain, Crypto, and NFTs world of late, saying that “decentralised spaces is really going to transition into the way we interact and connect on a daily basis in the future.”
For all the hype, translating that to a newer audience is tricky though. Iguodala tells me the dinner was “mandatory” for some of his younger teammates, but everyone on the roster showed up bar Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, a sign of both the interest in this space, and respect for what Iguodala’s built.
Indeed with Iguodala’s experience, knowledge, and connections he can make these complex topics tangible and relevant. Bringing in Gharegozlou and Dapper Labs meant that the players could connect a potentially abstract, but lucrative, opportunity with something familiar. “The players understand [NBA Top Shot], because we get a percentage of all the sales and trading and the stock, the way too that the platform can move, depending on the player perception.” Iguodala explains.
All part of Iguodala’s mission
Iguodala’s mission has never just been about investment portfolios though. This is a man who played in the NBA Finals in the NBA’s Bubble with “group economics” written on his jersey.
He started the Player Tech Summit to help his fellow athletes build their own knowledge and enter this world for a reason. “It’s more than just getting money to buy something material. It’s more trying to educate your co-workers, trying to educate their family members, or trying to educate the community that you come from, and trying to build something really foundational to leave for the next group,” Iguodala explains. “Generationally we’ll continue to close that gap because I think studies show that in 20 years the average African American’s net worth will be actually negative, which is something that is very real, and something we have to be cautious of.”
The next step is really helping teammates and fellow athletes build their platforms. This is the key for Iguodala. “If you take a look at the total amount of revenue being generated by African American athletes globally, and you can take a look at the income that we bring in annually, and it’s billions of dollars. And when you take something like group economics, and you put that practice into play amongst African American athletes and we get the knowledge of how that works, we start building the right infrastructure and the right platform to spread that message and that trickle down effect, and those resources are used the right way, we’re leveraging that amount of wealth to get our foot in the door into places that we never had access to. And that’s when you start seeing the real multiples on your investments, and the trickle down effect to our communities.”
Connecting that to the NBA business means helping fellow athletes “understand this is your job and this is sport but actually there’s the business side, and the new areas outweigh the performance side. So just catching them up to speed on how the CBA works out, BRI (basketball related income works), TV deals. You got gambling coming in soon that’s going to boost the valuation, and it’s going to boost a lot of player contracts.” Iguodala explains. “You’re generating all this wealth so what do you do with it from there? Money alone just won’t satisfy you, and it won’t make you happy. So it’s just the impact you can have from leveraging your brand, leveraging your wealth to really affect change.”
Livingston, who has known Iguodala since childhood, agrees. “That to me is where the special sauce is – in trying to educate the guys and provide some type of framework for them so they can start thinking about the rest of their lives, and the rest of their careers because the truth is, and we all know, and we find out at early age, the NBA game – it doesn’t last forever, and it’s a business.”
Doling out business lessons
The dinner was just the start of the process with his newer teammates. Andre is following up in plenty of different ways. “I’m checking in from time to time, seeing what they’re learning, what they’re reading, giving them different books. I just gave someone a book, Standard & Poor’s Guide to Investing, which I read 13, 14 years ago. It still stands the test of time as the beginner’s guide to learning about how the market works, different investment vehicles. And then just kind of slowly but surely I’m getting to the tech side, which is a bit more risky but there’s more upside, and how you diversify your portfolio and things of that nature.”
With so many new teammates, particularly several right at the beginning of their careers, Iguodala is urging some caution though. “I got a few guys who were excited about doing some things but I had to hold them off a little bit and say no, not now, it’s not particularly the right time for you to invest in something like this. But just build your treasure chest, build up an amount where you’re safe, and you’re secure in your future. Because you know the NBA is not promised. The average career is four years now and it’s getting lower and lower… turning over more and more. Half the league is out of the league every two years which is a crazy, staggering number.”
Instead Iguodala is helping his teammates think about the wider range of opportunities, such as “learning different ways where you can leverage your brand or your celebrity to get in some deals in a smart way where you don’t have to come out of pocket. There’s so many different ways that you can participate in this space. What’s the smartest way for you to participate?”
That’s something that chimes with Livingston. “There’s all types of opportunities that could be provided as well for younger players, or for instance, myself – I wasn’t the highest paid player, I wasn’t the marquee guy. I was a complementary piece, kind of a mid-level, minimum contract type player. And so, for those type of guys, these opportunities can become very, very valuable once their playing careers are over.”
The Bay Area is the only place to be
For a man on the mission Iguodala is on, there’s no other place he could be based, “you do learn how accessible talent is when you’re directly in the Bay Area” he says, before admitting that during his 18-month absence “I got a lot of questions from other guys, wanting to get an understanding of what I do in my business, and what I learned was when you’re not right in it, there’s opportunities that you can miss.”
Livingston’s experienced first-hand what it’s like to be alongside Iguodala in this investment journey, tapping into all that the Bay Area offers. “I had dabbled in investments earlier in my career but I was a novice. And coming around the Warriors, there was Andre, he was getting into the investing space, he had started in the venture capital space.” Livingston explains. “Being out in the Bay Area, being in the heart of Silicon Valley and just absorbing the energy, the business culture that’s out here, that’s kind of what gave me my first peek into that side of the investing world.”
Livingston cites his internship, or “kind of like a career day” as he puts it, at Kleiner Perkins, a big Venture Capital firm as a great example of how playing for the Warriors gave him a massive boost in this space. “It was like sitting courtside at our games”, he says of the opportunity to sit in on their investment meetings, watching companies pitch. “I played on nine different NBA teams, and playing for the Warriors being here in the Bay Area, it provides those type of opportunities.”
There’s no question this is a home-coming for Iguodala both on and off the court. “This is where he should have been all along,” Livingston says. “You look at Andre’s career and what he’s been able to accomplish coming from where he came from. I’ve known him since I was probably 10, 11 years old. It’s incredible… to continue to climb the mountain, and be a pioneer for us in this space, in the tech world and venture space – it’s something not many guys have done.”
As for Iguodala, “I never left,” he says of his return. He’s buzzing with energy and ideas, and clearly has plenty left to give. “One thing’s for sure I’m looking to enjoy this year like I did my rookie year, just taking it all in, having a good time, building relationships with my teammates and just kind of being present in the moment and enjoying it.”