NFL’s Vernon Davis Backs Aussie Hoops League as D.C. Ties Go Global

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Vernon Davis starred in the NFL but deep-down has always been a basketball fan. He’s turning his longtime passion into an investment with the Brisbane Bullets of the National Basketball League.

While several current and former NBA players have invested in the Australian league, Davis is the first NFLer to become a minority owner in the NBL. He purchased roughly a 5% stake in the team, according to people familiar with the transaction.

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It’s a hometown connection of sorts for the Washington, D.C., native, who is joining forces with Jason Levien, co-owner of the Bullets and CEO of DC United of Major League Soccer. The Bullets ownership group also includes former NBA guard Kevin Martin, Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton and Toronto Raptors forward Thaddeus Young.

“I didn’t start playing football until the 10th grade,” Davis, whose 14-year NFL career included two Pro Bowls at tight end and a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos, said in an interview. “Basketball was always something for me to do, and it’s at the foundation of who I am, so when the opportunity came about, I couldn’t pass that up.”

Davis is the latest to join the ownership group after Stormlight Holdings CEO Jake Silverstein bought roughly a 20% stake earlier this year. Silverstein, an investor in DC United as well as U.K. soccer club Swansea City, runs day-to-day operations for the Bullets. The club, which was last valued at $30 million, is one of the NBL’s 10 teams and harbors plans to grow the game and its home city.

The team has become more attractive since Brisbane was named the host city for the 2032 Summer Olympics. Bullets ownership group has significant plans ahead of the Games, looking to execute a public-private partnership that would create a new 12,000-to-14,000 arena and $250 million adjacent multi-use development.

“I thought that was another big plus with me coming in and being part of this group,” Davis said of Olympic-related opportunities. “The team is growing, and the league is continuing to evolve, so it all makes sense.”

After finishing near the bottom of the standings last season, the Bullets want to be a top destination for overseas talent in the emerging league, which has produced NBA players like LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton and Melbourne product Josh Giddey.

The NBL, owned by Larry Kestelman, inked a new media deal last year and looks to find innovative ways to deliver more content to the masses on various platforms. The Aussie league has taken a page from the NBA by tweaking its postseason format with the introduction of a play-in tournament for the upcoming season. The NBL will host its first Christmas Day game in league history this year, with the reigning champion Sydney Kings facing the Melbourne United.

The NBL’s 45th season begins on Oct. 1 with a doubleheader featuring the Melbourne Phoenix against the Tasmania JackJumpers, followed by the reigning champion Sydney Kings facing the Illawarra Hawks.

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