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Player Empowerment: Kevin Durant’s court success is reflected in his investments

2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

On Sunday night, Kevin Durant is likely to be otherwise occupied. After hopefully playing an afternoon game — and hopefully winning — he’ll be waiting to see if he can rack up another win in Hollywood. The 32-year-old who already has an MVP, two Finals MVP and Rookie of the Year awards will be waiting to see if he’ll add an Oscar to his trophy case.

He, agent/manager Rich Kleinman, and Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley are up for an Oscar for the film they produced, “Two Distant Strangers.” If they win, they’ll join Kobe Bryant as hoopers turned Oscar winners. Unlike Kobe Bryant’s Academy Award which was more of a memoir, Durant’s, up for “Best Live Action Short,” is about police and young black men, inspired by Black Lives Matter. Also, it was an investment. KD is listed as an executive producer which is Hollywood usually means someone who had faith in the project and bankrolled it.

As Brian Lewis reports Sunday, Durant and Kleiman were pitched on investing in the film and decided it met their requirements.

“This project was brought to our attention very early on in the development process,” Durant told Lewis. “When we read the script, me and the whole Thirty Five Ventures team immediately wanted to get involved and help it come to fruition.”

Thirty-Five Ventures is Durant and Kleiman’s investment vehicle, a Manhattan-based operation that has stakes in 70 different properties, as varied as documentary films about basketball to a stunningly successful piece in Coinbase, the bitcoin brokerage that went public earlier this month. KD and Kleiman haven’t said how much they invested, but from the time they put down their money till today, Coinbase has jumped more than 50 times in value.

The process, Kleiman said, is the same for each investment. They look at the numbers and try to make a personal connection. And they have the resources. Durant has already made a quarter-billion dollars in NBA salaries. And that doesn’t count his endorsements.

“We have analysts that look over the numbers. But ultimately we’re investing in these earlier stages, so we have to connect with the founder. We have to be able to get the company, fully get the concept,” Kleiman said. “Sometimes you get deals that are just great opportunities and it’s a no-brainer.”

A lot of start-ups whether in California’s Silicon Valley or New York’s Silicon Alley are looking for celebrity investors to give their companies more visibility. Jay-Z figured that out early.

“We’re focused on strategic investments where we feel like we can make an impact, or where there’s potential alignment with The Boardroom (Thirty Ventures media business) in addition to being smart investments,” Durant told The Post. “There’s a new partnership in the women’s sports space that we’ll be announcing soon that I’m very excited about.”

Often, but not always, there’s a sports or a personal connection like his documentary about how Prince George’s County, Maryland, has produced so many great ballers including him and teammate Jeff Green. One of Durant and Kleiman’s most recent investments is in a company that aims to simply the market in trading card collectibles.

One of his most prominent investments has been in the Philadelphia Union, the MLS team in the City of Brotherly Love. After twice trying to get in on D.C. United, he bought a 10 percent stake in the Union which is now the best team in the MLS. (As Scott Cacciola of the Times reported recently, a Nets teammate, James Harden, his coach, Steve Nash, and owner, Joe Tsai, also own stakes in MLS teams.)

Durant also was an early investor in Overtime, the company that initially made its reputation posting highlight reels of high school players with a heavy emphasis on athleticism. Now, after he helped convince other NBA players — 75 in all — to join him, Overtime is getting more ambitious and recently raised $80 million from people like Drake and Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, to start up a professional youth basketball league, Overtime Elite, for players 16 to 18. It will launch in September with Kevin Ollie, the former UConn coach, as head coach. The best players will earn up to $100,000. It reflects Durant’s belief in player empowerment.

Beyond sports, as Lewis notes, there have been other successes like a $1 million investment in Postmates before it was sold last year to Uber. And Acorns, Starstock and Dapper Labs, maker of NBA’s Top Shot.

What’s the end game for a player who’s nearing the end of his career? Ownership of an NBA franchise.

“We definitely have always been interested clearly in being involved in team sports, and learning the ownership business and being able to at one point have Kevin, and this organization, own and operate an NBA team,” Kleiman told The Post. “The thought is so far down the line, not only because Kevin’s still playing, but the amount of money to get into it is a different level of money.”

A different level, sure, but based on their current level of success, not an unattainable one.