Everybody should have a “side hustle” when it comes to their work. Something they care about or enjoy that they can work on in order to add to their income, spread their reach or give them something to fall back on when they’re finished with their main gig.
For many athletes in the 21st century, that side hustle comes in the form of a production company.
Players, fans and owners alike live in an era filled with content. There’s never enough for someone to consume on any platform, whether it’s songs on Spotify or Apple Music, shows and movies on Netflix or Hulu, or even live television on YouTube or HBO.
So, what does someone do while the iron’s hot? They strike. Enter high-profile athletes, looking for a lasting legacy that will keep their name in the conversation when the time comes for them to retire from the sport they love.
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Look at former WWE star and current movie sensation Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who co-founded Seven Bucks Productions alongside Dany Garcia in 2012.
The production company has skyrocketed over the last seven years, with dozens of movie releases to their name like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, and Fighting with my Family to go with television shows like Ballers and The Titan Games.
Or, look at the life of Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who found a way to turn anything he touched into gold.
Before his death, Bryant made waves with the release of Dear Basketball, created by his own production company named Granity Studios. The film, released in 2017 and based on a 2015 letter the future Hall of Famer wrote in The Players’ Tribune to announce his retirement, helped Bryant make more history, turning the basketball legend into the first professional athlete to ever win an Academy Award.
“What?? This is beyond the realm of imagination. It means so much that The Academy deemed Dear Basketball worthy of contention,” Bryant tweeted after receiving the honor. “Thanks to the genius of Glen Keane & John Williams for taking my poem to this level.”
Then, there’s current NBA star LeBron James, who co-founded Springhill Entertainment with Maverick Carter and took his talents out to Los Angeles in 2018 to establish his empire.
The Lakers forward’s company notoriously produces “The Shop” on HBO, and is working on an update to the classic movie Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan and will have James as the lead in its remade version. It also had its name attached to More Than a Game, NBA 2K20‘s story mode, and will head up a documentary about James’ I Promise School.
Plus, the company has a large deal with Warner Bros., helping to establish the brand as a big name in the entertainment industry, and is reportedly in talks for another large move in the future, according to Variety.
“LeBron James has one of the most powerful, well-known brands in the world and we are excited to be in business with him and his partner, Maverick Carter, and SpringHill Entertainment,” Kevin Tsujihara, former Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros, said.
On the football side, things get even more interesting, especially when you bring up players like Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and quarterback Tom Brady.
Edelman founded Coast Productions in 2019 when the documentary entitled 100%: Julian Edelman was released, highlighting his journey after a torn ACL and suspension en route to being named Super Bowl MVP after the Patriots’ win in Super Bowl LIII against the Rams.
The business venture began after Edelman and his team saw the end result of a project created by NFL Films, a video of a trip to Mexico featuring Edelman and Danny Amendola trip, and co-founder Assaf Swissa and director Kyler Schelling decided to take matters into their own hands.
“We were both kind of like, ‘You know what? We saw what happened when we were with an entity. Let’s just do it ourselves,’” Schelling told The Swing of Things ahead of the documentary’s release.
Now, the team releases videos through Edelman’s YouTube channel, and has other projects in the works to tap into the wide receiver’s creative capabilities.
“What I play is a tough game, and you’re handling media during games and practice and it’s all about football,” Edelman told Deadline. “This was an outlet to showcase and communicate a synergy directly with fans and showing them what you’re really about. After doing that first Smoothie Tyme video, seeing the cutting, and learning about the background of making and producing content, thinking it’s going to be complete s—, and then we make it and then people like it, that’s when I got interested in being part of a producing team. It’s fun to have a say and we’ve got a good team and that’s when I really got interested in doing more.”
New England’s presence in the entertainment industry grew even larger on March 9, 2020, as Brady announced the creation of his own production company, 199 Productions.
“I’m excited to announce to the world the official launch of 199 Productions,” Brady said in an Instagram post. “When I was the 199th draft pick in 2000, I knew I needed to work hard every day to prove myself. Launching a production company is no different.”
Brady will have a top-tier team to work with as he enters the media realm head-on, partnering with Avengers directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and Gotham Chopra, the mind behind the popular Facebook series Tom vs. Time, on a 3D project entitled Unseen Football.
“I believe in the essence of teamwork, and I have no doubt, our 199 Productions team and partners will create inspiring content to share with the world,” Brady said. Stay tuned.. exciting times are ahead, both on and off the field.”
Players are recognizing the opportunities that they can tackle and score with as the desire for content continues to rise, and the platforms for distributing those projects increase.
But, while running a company may seem like easy work to fans who look on from the outside, those at the helm will tell you that the side hustle quickly turns into its own beast.
“It’s been fun, it’s been tough though,” James told the Los Angeles Times. “Everybody always sees when the articles come out, LeBron and SpringHill, Maverick Carter, producing this. But we don’t always get some of the stories that we would like. Sometimes we get outbid. Sometimes the production is not gonna happen. There’s a lot of pitfalls that come with running a production company, with running a studio, as well.
And, just like a basketball player on the court or a football player on the field, the goals with a production company are simple: Improvement and continued growth.
“We want to just continue to get better and better,” James said.