TORONTO–When Shane Battier was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2001 no one was talking about business in the NBA’s locker-rooms or clubhouses.
Nine years into his retirement from playing, Battier says professional basketball’s culture has radically changed.
“Now, guys like Carmelo Anthony and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, LeBron James, guys who talk about being owners, you know about being LLPs,” said Battier, who won NBA titles with James on the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013. “Using their platform to grow their brand and leverage their capital into many more millions and that’s awesome.
“These young guys have awesome, have amazing role models now.”
Battier has become a leader in that movement, investing in several tech companies. He was in Toronto last week as a speaker at Collision, an annual tech conference that has been at the Enercare Centre since 2019. Baron Davis, who played in the NBA from 1999 to 2012, also spoke at Collision last week.
“A lot of the lessons I’ve learned and my journey as a basketball player are applicable in the boardroom and in the coffee room,” said Battier. “So I’m trying to make culture-building, leadership, winning, accessible to everybody.”
Kai Bond is a partner with Courtside Ventures, an early-stage fund that invests in sports, lifestyle, and gaming. He was also at Collision and spoke about how athletes nearing the end of their playing days make for ideal investors.
“There’s a parallel between great athletes and great investors,” said Bond. “Like at Courtside, we’re a team of five. We all have to be individually excellent at what we do, but we all have to know that we play as one team.”
Beyond a built-in understanding of teamwork, Bond believes that elite athletes have a stronger mindset that’s better suited to investing because they can have a level of commitment that most other people lack.
“You have to find people that are doing diligent work,” said Bond. “They have to have that mentality that it’s almost impossible to be successful at what you’re doing but suspending disbelief to put yourself in a position to succeed.
“The rigour of continuing to get better and honing your craft.”
For Battier, that comes from a passion for technology that predates his NBA days. He said that many of his friends went into the tech sector after graduating from Duke University, their alma mater.
“I’m a nerd at heart,” said Battier, standing on the floor of the Enercare Centre. “I’ve always been into what’s the newest and latest gadget or device or piece of software that can make my life easier.
“I have a genuine interest in technology and how it can make our lives better.”
Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology were all the rage at the 2022 edition of Collision, but Battier said that artificial intelligence was the focal point of this year’s conference.
“Everybody you talk to is thinking about what is our AI strategy? What’s it mean? How much do we invest into generative AI?” said Battier. “Knowing that it’s only going to get better and if you don’t, you’re going to be left by the side of the road.”
Battier said that he has already started to use AI as a critical reader for a book he is writing that’s part memoir and part leadership guide.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2023.