How I got an MBA from the NBA

Clark Hodgin for Insider

  • Baron Davis is a former NBA player who is making a name for himself off the court in the business world.
  • His latest venture, Business In the Game, is a platform for athletes and talents who want to become entrepreneurs.
  • Davis spoke with Insider reporter Yoonji Han about his transition from the NBA to entrepreneurship.

This is an essay based on a conversation with former NBA player and entrepreneur Baron Davis. The essay has been edited for length and clarity.

When I was 3 years old, my grandfather made a basketball court for me for Christmas. This started my love for basketball. When I saw the court that he had built in his backyard, it was just like, “I’m going to do this every day.” It was the only thing he knew I needed.

From there it was every day, all day, basketball, basketball, basketball. I started learning to shoot the ball 9 or 10 feet because my older cousins ​​would come over and pick up the hoop. But my grandmother would water around the basket at night and the court, which was built on dirt, would sink back in so I could make shots like a little kid.

Basketball was the tool in the story of my life. It was the only thing that kept me sane through the ups and downs. It also allowed me to move around the city: I got a scholarship to a private school, which shaped my perspective on what the real world was like.

Going to Santa Monica every day and then coming home to South Central, there was always this reality check of, “Hey, there’s a world out there that exists, but also that world doesn’t exist for people like you.” I was in the mode of survival all the time looking for mentors and guides.

My NBA journey on and off the court

I ended up at UCLA, and my mission has always been to figure out how to build that bridge where kids in my neighborhood can wake up and have the same experience as kids who go to private school.

Throughout my NBA career, it’s always been, ‘How can I become a beacon of light?’ And hopefully somebody’s looking at it like, ‘Yo, if Baron Davis did it, I can do it.’

I didn’t have the career I thought I would have. After I turned pro, I was injured a lot and since basketball was the only thing I really had, I played injured a lot. I never played for a championship.

But some of my best friends and mentors that I made were in the NBA, and all the cities I played in—New York, New Orleans, Charlotte, Los Angeles, Cleveland—they all helped me become the person I looked up to. I ended up going to be after I got off the court.

Clark Hodgin for Insider

Getting out

When I was traded to San Francisco, I found myself surrounded by all these technical people. I started hanging around a lot of developers. People were building tech companies all the time, and I was like, “Hey, I have great ideas. I know I can’t create the technology, but I have great ideas.”

I started meeting people, sharing my ideas, the problems I want to solve and the solutions because I realized that technology solves problems.

When I was in the Golden State, I founded my first technology company. It was called and we were one of the first platforms based on challenging your friends and building a community. It was eventually acquired by Shutterstock.

I continued to hang around risky people, listening and learning like a fly on the wall. Being an athlete takes you into many rooms that many people cannot enter. At the same time, I realized that there is an order and a process, so I decided to learn as much as I could.

I’m getting my MBA from the NBA

Being the only athlete for a long time at these risky conferences, I heard people talk negatively about athletes – their money, their investments, what they do. The whole zeitgeist was this narrative that athletes are dumb and going broke and need people like us to help them figure out what to do with their money.

That’s when I knew I had to go and find great athletes doing drugs who are making great investments, creating amazing businesses and posing as entrepreneurs.

I ended up with Business Inside the Game when I knew it was time to start showing people that we exist in this space. And it can’t be just athletes and artists. It has to be the investors, the C-suites, the connectors, the media, because we all play a role in the trajectory of a company becoming a unicorn or having an exit.

That’s something I learned in the NBA: building a team, because that’s how success is built. That’s how I got my MBA from the NBA.

Clark Hodgin for Insider

Creating profit for all

Business Inside the Game, or BIG, is a collective membership for people who invest, network and share ideas through dinners, events and content. We want to help athletes and other talents become dashes based on their interests.

I was inspired to create BIG because it allows us to curate through trust. I’ve noticed that they take advantage of athletes and musicians and people like that because that’s how the industry is traditionally built.

But BIG weeds out bad business managers, bad agents, bad friends that you think you want to invest with.

As an athlete or someone with fame, you need to make sure you know what your business is. You need to make sure you know what your share and ownership is. Many times people come around not just to take advantage of it, but to take advantage of being around you for their own benefit.

So for me it was: Let’s put the right people in the right rooms with the right ecosystem of talent, and let’s explore what winning looks like for everyone.

Photography courtesy of Alec Castillo.

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