NBA players with time on their hands due to the league’s ongoing labor dispute are finding that showbiz offers an opportunity to fill their schedules. While some star athletes have long maintained production companies or record labels, the lockout has provided a chance for new business.
Earlier in October, New York Knicks star Amare Stoudemire pitched to a handful of major networks a half-hour scripted comedy that he is developing with producers Jeff Kwatinetz and Happy Walters, who is Stoudemire’s agent and president of Rogue Sports, Relativity Media’s sports business.
In September, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant decamped to Baton Rouge, La., to play himself opposite Brandon T. Jackson in Warner Premiere’s Switch, a family comedy centered on a magic twist that transfers Durant’s skills to an enthusiastic fan.
Such deals aren’t just about cashing a paycheck. Jeff Marks of sports business consultancy Premier Partnerships says that the projects are important for developing athletes’ brands. “They aren’t doing this for free, but at the end of the day, Amare Stoudemire doesn’t need an extra endorsement deal or two,” Marks says. “I think it is about the personal brand.”
Philadelphia 76ers forward Elton Brand is president of Gibraltar Films, which produced Werner Herzog‘s 2007 drama Rescue Dawn. Baron Davis of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a co-founder of L.A.-based Verso Entertainment, which produced Stacy Peralta‘s 2008 documentary Crips and Bloods: Made in America.
Davis is spending the lockout focusing on producing the documentary American Schlub, which explores the downfall of men’s style, and starring in a pilot for a variety show. Davis, who is working on a film and TV studies minor at UCLA, also is taking acting classes. Whether he’ll have time to become a star off the court remains to be seen, but if the NBA season is canceled, the projects have an added benefit. Says Marks, “I think it is also about keeping these guys busy.”