How Steph Curry, LeBron James operate similarly away from basketball

Logan Murdock
NBC Sports BayArea

Two months ago, Warriors guard Steph Curry sat in the living room to share his platform with leading medical expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to help shed light on the effects of the coronavirus.

The moment simultaneously continued Curry's recent trend of advocating for social justice while giving a glimpse of how the Warriors superstar is building his media empire. 

Curry isn't alone in his endeavors. LeBron James and other NBA stars have put their voices behind digital media companies to curate their voices to the masses. But more importantly, they'e doing it to show the athletes coming after them that there is a life after basketball. 

Curry's foray into media started two years ago when signed a deal with Sony to form Unanimous Media. The company, whose stated focus is on "faith and family-friendly content" and "sports-themed projects," released a Facebook series titled "Stephen vs. The Game."  Curry also hosted a screening of "Emanuel" -- a documentary about the Emanuel AME Church shooting that he produced. 

But his crowning achievement is interviewing Fauci, where he gave the United States' leading medical voice a platform to speak to Curry's built-in audience of more than 30 million Instagram followers. Over the chat, the two discussed the effects of COVID-19, social distancing and how to stay safe as the virus ravages the world.

While Curry has been successful in the digital space, James was the trendsetter. In 2015, he founded Uninterrupted, a digital media company designed to give athletes a direct-to-fan platform. In 2021, he's slated to star in "Space Jam 2."

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Along the way, he has used his voice on social issues. In 2014, James -- along with his Miami Heat teammates -- posted a picture in team-issued hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black man who was gunned down by George Zimmerman. Two years later, James opened the ESPYS alongside Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, to condemn police brutality. Before the 2016 election, James publically endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, expanding his political cache. 

"He's a guy that when he is in a crowd or he is with his teammates or he's doing a charitable event for Akron or for whoever else. He's just a guy that just brings people together with his voice, with his presence, with the stuff that he does,"  Warriors assistant and James' former coach Mike Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area's "Runnin Plays" podcast. 

Curry and James aren't the first basketball players to be successful businessmen. Six decades ago, Wilt Chamberlain bought Small's Paradise in Harlem, helping it become a venue for black acts to perform for large audiences. Two years after being drafted by the Lakers, Earvin "Magic" Johnson bought a local radio station in Colorado. By 2020, he'd built his net worth to more than $600 million. But the gold standard is Michael Jordan, whose Air Jordan shoe brand made him a billionaire by age 52. 

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At the moment, James, Curry and others are following in those footsteps. Last season, James earned $95 million in salary and endorsement, becoming the highest-paid NBA player, according to Forbes. Curry was second at $85 million while Durant racked up $72 million. With that kind of cash, the trio can buy all the influence they need going forward.

"It didn't start with Uninterrupted or anybody else's own media company," Durant said last year. "It started with The Score, Bleacher Report, House of Highlights, all of these platforms that aggregate stories from big media companies like NBC and ESPN.

"It's so easy now to put your own spin, 'cause you have your own platform. So, after a while, players are starting to see how so many random people want to run with their messages and spin it around."

How Steph Curry, LeBron James operate similarly away from basketball originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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