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Faced with the reality of the final years of his career, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant announced on Sunday his plans to start his next career: Businessman.
Bryant, in an exclusive interview with ESPN, revealed that he has formed his own company called Kobe Inc., and is building a team around him to start new businesses and evaluate investing in others.
"I have always had ideas and always had a vision of where I wanted to go going back to 2000, but they are just ideas," Bryant said. "Now, once the Achilles injury took place, I'm sitting at home for months not moving, a couple things set in. One is that there is only so many Modern Family episodes a person can watch. And then two, what do I do now?"
|Kobe Bryant with BODYARMOR's Mike Repole.|
Bryant said he then put pen to paper and began executing his vision, which included a mission statement.
"We want to own and help grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring," Bryant said. "If it doesn't have the limbs of the sports industry, which I understand extremely well, then I probably won't touch it."
Bryant said he has watched previous NBA greats like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson turn basketball careers into lucrative business relationships. Jordan has famously made money by licensing his name to Nike to make Air Jordan sneakers. Magic has made much of his money by allowing others to use his name as well. But the path Bryant seeks will be more hands-on.
"I want to be a part of something and if you want to be a true entrepreneur you have to put skin in the game," Bryant said. "At this stage in my life, I don't have the interest in taking on any more endorsements."
Bryant's first investment, also announced on Sunday, will be upstart sports drink BODYARMOR, a beverage that has coconut water in it and boasts of delivering more potassium to an athlete's body while offering less sodium than its competitors.
"From a standpoint of innovation, if you look at the category, the category itself has been a dormant one for years," Bryant said. "They have become accustom to drinking one product because that's been the only one available to them. There hasn't been a product that has come to them and said, 'There's another way to upgrade your sports drink.' "
Bryant would only say that he invested millions of his own money, while the company -- which had about $10 million in sales last year -- confirmed the basketball star will now be the brand's third largest shareholder behind founders Michael Repole and Lance Collins.
Repole co-founded Vitaminwater and Smartwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. Collins sold his drinks, Fuze and NOS, to Coca-Cola for $250 million that same year.
"That Kobe chose us helps validate what we bring to the table as a brand," Repole said. "We're honored to have one of the most elite players of all time on our team and I'm confident, given all the conversations that I've had with Kobe over the last month, that once his career is done, he will be as successful of an entrepreneur as he was a basketball player."
BODYARMOR has Mike Trout, Buster Posey, Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski in its endorsement lineup.
Over the past year, Bryant has studied to become a businessman. He met with executives at Twitter and Instagram, during a few road trips he stopped in to colleges and universities to try to absorb the business classes that he missed by skipping college for the NBA, and he spoke to some of the most successful business titans in the world.
"The one thing that is the common denominator among them all are that they all have the ability to understand people, to communicate properly, to have vision, to have guts and to have this kind of patient persistence in the process."
Bryant says that while he works on his comeback, he will be growing his commitment to his business life every day "which is why it's critical to pick brands that you truly believe in and find entrepreneurs that you can get along with."
Bryant says he expects the business world to be much like what he has experienced in the sports world.
Said Bryant: "I can only imagine It's basically the same stressful, miserable, joyful, blessed journey."