NBA superstar Kevin Durant has been sidelined since suffering an Achilles tendon injury in the 2019 NBA Finals. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has yet to play a game for the Brooklyn Nets, but that hasn’t stopped him from expanding his range and impact off the court.
On Monday morning, Durant became a minority owner of the Philadelphia Union; a Major League Soccer team. He purchased a 5% stake in the team, with an option to purchase an additional 5% in the future.
Durant and business partner/manager Rich Kleiman combined to represent Thirty Five Ventures, “an umbrella for all of their business interests across sports, tech, culture and more”.
Kleiman further elaborated on some of the goals of the partnership, including “growing the Union footprint in the sports world”, as well as cultivating a “different type of partnership that isn’t simply a passive ownership stake, but real involvement across marketing and business development from the whole Thirty Five Ventures team”.
The celebrity status of Durant could provide a boost in awareness for Philadelphia Union and MLS. The Philadelphia Union’s Twitter page, now filled with Durant’s name, boasts 144,000 followers. Major League Soccer as a whole has 3.2 million followers on the platform. On his own page, Durant has 18.2 million followers.
In other words, Durant’s level of exposure could be a valuable asset to the Union and league as he possesses a wide reaching audience.
Durant isn’t the first NBA player to purchase a stake in a MLS team. Former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate and current Houston Rockets guard James Harden purchased a $15 million stake in the Houston Dynamo in 2019.
Durant opted to form a partnership with the Union over New York’s two MLS teams (New York Red Bulls and New York City FC) or his hometown team of DC United.
Overseas, LeBron James has been a minority owner in Liverpool FC since 2011.
Major League Soccer will be among the earliest team sport leagues to return in North America with a unique ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ beginning in early July. The tournament will follow a similar structure to the World Cup, with teams competing in a group stage for the right to advance to a knockout bracket. Other quirks include a meaningful motivation to win the tournament (a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League) and group stage games counting towards regular season standings.
As MLS strives to grow in viewership and awareness, Durant’s inclusion as a minority owner of the Union can only bode well.
The Union finished third in the Eastern Conference last season with a record of 16-11-7. They defeated the New York Red Bulls 4-3 in extra time in the opening round of the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, before falling 2-0 to Atlanta United FC in the Conference Semifinals.
Philadelphia will compete in the competitive Group A in the ‘MLS is Back Tournament’, playing group stage games against Orlando City SC, New York City FC, Inter Miami CF, Chicago Fire FC, and the Western Conference’s Nashville SC.
Durant also plans to give back to the Chester, which houses Subaru Park and Philadelphia communities through the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation.
Besides investing and philanthropic ventures, Durant and Thirty Five Ventures recently produced “Basketball County”, with the help of fellow Maryland-DC native and rapper IDK.
Durant may be sidelined from on the court action, but it hasn’t stopped him from making his mark and getting involved off the court.