Kobe Bryant left huge impact on business off the court

NBA legend Kobe Bryant, 41, died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning in Calabasas, Calif., along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. Seven other people were on board Bryant’s helicopter and were all killed in the tragic accident.

Bryant’s impact on basketball is obvious: five-time NBA champion; two-time NBA Finals MVP; league MVP in 2008; 18-time NBA All-Star; fourth-leading scorer in NBA history. He played for only one team in his career, the Lakers, and wore two numbers in his career, and both No. 8 and No. 24 have been retired by the team.

Few other professional athletes are more closely associated with and representative of one city than Bryant and Los Angeles; Derek Jeter and New York City might be a fair comparison. In a statement on Sunday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Bryant “will live forever in the heart of Los Angeles.”

But Bryant also leaves a stunning legacy off the court, completely outside of basketball, and thus a lasting impact on what pro athletes can achieve in business after retirement. He earned more than $323 million in NBA salary (and by most estimates, more than that in additional endorsements), and after retiring in 2016, he quickly put that fortune to work.

That year, Bryant launched a $100 million tech investing fund, Bryant Stibel, with venture capitalist Jeff Stibel. It was a formalization of the investing the two had already been doing since 2013, a reminder that Bryant began planning for his second act well before he retired. The firm’s portfolio has huge household names like Alibaba and Dell, plus stakes in more than 20 early-stage companies including: Derek Jeter’s athlete blog The Players’ Tribune (where Bryant published the original “Dear Basketball” post that would inspire his eventual Oscar-winning animated short); legal services startup LegalZoom; Cholula hot sauce; wedding site Minted; “Fortnite” game developer Epic Games; skincare company Art of Sport; Jessica Alba’s The Honest Co; and location tracker Tile.

Bryant’s $6 million early stake in sports drink BodyArmor in 2014 turned into $200 million after Coca-Cola bought a huge stake in the Gatorade competitor in 2018.

Of course, Bryant was hardly the only NBA star to catch the tech investing bug. LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, and Steph Curry, among many others, have all become known for the same. All of them watched Bryant do it first. In an interview with Yahoo Finance last year, former L.A. Laker Lamar Odom named Bryant as the athlete he has most taken cues from in business: “I learned the most from him... on and off the court.”

Even beside investing, Bryant’s breadth of achievements in media and youth sports are remarkable.

Related: Kobe Bryant and his family

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Kobe Bryant and his family
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: (L-R) Vanessa Laine Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant attend Tribeca Talks: Storytellers: Kobe Bryant with Glen Keane during 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, Gianna Briant, and Natalia Bryant attend Tribeca Talks during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Borough of Manhattan Community College on April 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: Kobe Bryant (top) and (L-R) Vanessa Laine Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, and Natalia Diamante Bryant arrive at Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: (L-R) Gianna Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, former NBA player Kobe Bryant and Natalia Bryant attend the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2016 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JULY 14: Vanessa Laine Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant and Natalia Diamante Bryant attend the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 19: LA Laker Kobe Bryant, wife Vanessa Bryant and daughters Natalia Diamante Bryant (L) and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant (R) attend the Kobe Bryant hand and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 19, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds his daughter Natalia during practice for the NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Texas, February 16, 2013. The All-Star game will be played on February 17. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Basketball player Kobe Bryant and his daughter Natalia Diamante Bryant watch swimming events during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre August 4, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SWIMMING OLYMPICS SPORT BASKETBALL)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant smiles with daughters Gianna (R) and Natalia with the Bill Russell MVP Trophy after his team defeated the Boston Celtics in Game 7 to win the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2010 . REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant carries his daughter Gianna, as his wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia (2nd R) stand next to him during the NBA Championship parade in Los Angeles, California, June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (top R) holds the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship trophy as his wife Vanessa (top L) and daughters Natalia (bottom L) and Gianna watch after the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the NBA Championship in Game 5 in Orlando, Florida June 14, 2009. REUTERS/Kevin Kolczynski (UNITED STATES SPORT BASKETBALL)
Vanessa Bryant (C), wife of Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant, watches the Lakers NBA game against the Seattle Supersonics with their two daughters Gianna Maria-Onore (R) and Natalia (L) in Los Angeles November 3, 2006. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES)
Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant poses with his wife Vanessa and their daughter Natalia at the premiere of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" at Disneyland in Anaheim, California May 19, 2007. The movie opens in the U.S. on May 25. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni (UNITED STATES)
Basketball super star Kobe Bryant watches with his two daughters, Natalia (R) and Gianna (L) as Los Angeles Galaxy plays the San Jose Earthquakes in a Major League Soccer game in Carson, California April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Basketball super star Kobe Bryant reacts along with his wife Vanessa (L) and their two daughters Natalia (R) and Gianna as they watch the Los Angeles Galaxy plays against the San Jose Earthquakes in a Major League Soccer game in Carson, California April 3, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES)
Vanessa Bryant (R), wife of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, hugs their daughter Natalia during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs, in Los Angeles November 28, 2003. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson LN/HB
Vanessa Bryant (L), wife of unrestricted free agent Kobe Bryant, and their daughter Natalia, listen to Kobe speak at a press conference to announce he will remain with the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-year deal for the NBA's league maximum of $136 million in El Segundo, California, July 15, 2004. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson LN
Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers arrives with his wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia to a news conference at the team's training facility in El Segundo, California July 15, 2004. Bryant signed a seven-year contract worth more than $136 million to remain with the Lakers. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith RG
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses with wife Vanessa and daughters Giana (L) and Natalia during a ceremony honoring Bryant for moving into third place on the all time NBA scoring list and passing Michael Jordan, before the game withthe Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on December 19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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In 2018, he won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short for “Dear Basketball,” the movie he created, wrote, and produced based on his own poem. That year, he launched Granity Studios, a multimedia company focused on inspiring content for young people across television, film, and book publishing. Granity’s projects have included the podcast “The Punies,” the ESPN+ analysis show “Detail,” and Bryant’s book “Mama Mentality: How I Play the Game,” published last year. And it has a large slate of projects coming this and next year, including more books in the young adult “Wizenard Series.”

Bryant said in 2018 that he launched Granity “as a platform to create and share original stories to inspire today’s young athletes. There’s surprisingly little content that combines the passion of sports and the traditions of original storytelling.”

On “Detail,” Bryant analyzed in great depth the styles of fellow basketball stars; in 2018, he recruited NFL legend Peyton Manning to narrate a season of analyzing quarterbacks. “Detail” was one of the earliest exclusive shows on the ESPN+ streaming app, and likely contributed to the service amassing 3.5 million paying subscribers in its first 18 months.

Bryant in 2018 also opened the Mamba Sports Academy in L.A., where he worked out NBA players, WNBA players, and hosted his daughter Gianna’s AAU club basketball team. Gianna Bryant was a promising young star herself and was headed for her own playing career. In recent years, Bryant often took her to Lakers games, L.A. Sparks WNBA games, and USC Trojans women’s basketball games. (NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s statement on Bryant’s death took care to note that Bryant took “special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna.”) He was also a huge supporter of women’s sports outside of basketball, like the U.S. women’s national soccer team.

In media interviews over the last few years about his business endeavors, Bryant repeatedly said he had zeroed in on his post-NBA passion: “storytelling.”

Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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