Kobe Bryant could have become better at investing than basketball, says 76ers co-owner

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Kobe Bryant, the investor, could have one day found more success than Kobe Bryant, the basketball player, billionaire entrepreneur and Philadelphia 76ers partner Michael Rubin told CNBC on Friday.

“What made him successful on the court, that absolutely working harder than anybody else, is the same thing I saw from him in business,” said Rubin, executive chairman of sports merchandise company Fanatics.

Rubin, a partner in the NBA’s 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, said he started to get to know Bryant around 2013, at which point the two developed a relationship around investing.

Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, would according to Rubin call him “before a game, after a game.” Rubin said Bryant had “so many questions about how to do things in business.”

“I said back in 2013, ‘This guy’s second act is going to be better than his first act,'” Rubin recalled on Friday, in a “Squawk Box” interview.

For evidence, look no further than Bryant’s investment in BodyArmor, said Rubin, whose Kynetic tech firm is the holding company of Fanatics as well as e-commerce brands Rue Gilt Groupe and Shoprunner.

The five-time NBA champion put about $6 million in BodyArmor in 2014. Four years later, when Coca-Cola purchased a minority share of the sports drink company, Bryant’s investment was worth around $200 million, according to Sports Illustrated.

Rubin said Bryant talked to him about BodyArmor around the time of his initial investment. “He’s like, ‘I love this company. I’m telling you, Michael, my instincts are telling me this is going to be huge.'”

“The first investment he made, he like made literally a 50x-plus. I mean that’s Kobe. He was a winner in absolutely everything he did,” Rubin said. “The whole world is going to miss him dearly.”

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed Sunday along with seven others after their helicopter crashed into the hills of Calabasas, California.

In 2016, the year he retired from the NBA, Bryant told CNBC he hoped to be remembered for not just his basketball career but also as a revered investor.

“Now, championships come and go. Right? There’s going to be another team that wins an NBA Championship, another player that wins another MVP award,” Bryant said then. “But if you really want to create something that lasts generations, you have to help inspire the next generation.”

Bryant started the venture capital firm Bryant Stibel in 2013 along with Jeff Stibel, who was previously CEO of Web.com and The Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation. Bryant also had expressed interest in owning an NBA team.

Rubin told CNBC on Friday he had discussions with Bryant about potentially joining an ownership group when Rubin pursued a deal to buy the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. Billionaire hedge-fund manager David Tepper eventually purchased the Panthers professional football team in 2018.

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