During the offseason, Jaylen Brown spent some time in Malaga, Spain with the National Basketball Players’ Association which also included a sit down with former Celtic Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala to record an episode of the “Point Forward” podcast, along with Executive Committee member Donovan Mitchell.
Brown has never shied away from difficult conversations and is establishing himself as a thought leader for change and an entrepreneur in his own right. Where most of us see those as two different entities, Brown believes the two can co-exist, especially as an athlete with a platform.
“I think it should be more normalized,” Brown said. “I think sometimes, it’s a fear attached to being vocal, having political agendas, or talking about things that are controversial. But in my opinion, athletes got the most influence in the world. When you’re able to speak on these certain things, things move, things change, and how the system is set up, a lot of different things.”
As one of the league’s best players, Brown is acutely aware of his opportunity and the change it can help bring. He has been a vocal figure in the fight for social justice and equality. He’s marched in Atlanta in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and issued statements in the face of adversity despite the potential backlash of being an athlete who speaks on social matters. Brown wants his legacy to be more than what he accomplishes on a basketball court.
“The more we understand how to make decisions and understand our value and speak on certain things, the more we’ll be able to control our own narrative.”
With such a big presence comes expectations, especially as an elite athlete who is in a tax bracket most people can only dream of. For many, it’s easier to play the part, to do what is expected of you, and go about your day. Yet, Brown refused to be swayed by external expectations and social norms, in part because of a promise he made to himself upon entering the league and joining the Celtics.
“I’m unapologetically black. I’m going to be who I am from day one to the end. I’m professional, and I handle myself accordingly. But for the most part, I’m just going to just be myself. And I made that promise to myself that I wasn’t going to change or alter who I was for nobody. And it’s worked.
I’ve had a lot of pushback and kickback from a lot of different things, but I knew that would be a come with the journey or whatever. But for me, it’s been good days, and it’s been bad days. But I can look in the mirror, and I can be like I’ve been myself the entire way. I didn’t conform. I didn’t tell nobody something I didn’t truly believe.”
As part of the NBPA, Brown is committed to helping push forward the opportunities for growth and investment available to players around the league. He wants to help others understand their influence across all facets of everyday life, from fashion and music to technology and sports science.
“We set the tone for fashion, art, culture, influence just in itself, not just here in America, but also globally. So, I think that’s all-encompassing...We have a global brand that’s continuing to expand as a union as players and to be able to control that narrative through our own representation is key. As we continue to get more understanding of our own value, as we continue to fight for licensing, we continue to fight for the economic rights that we deserve.”
When you look around the NBA, very few players or ex-players invest in growing technology fields. Shaquille O’Neal recently invested in “Edsoma,” an artificial intelligence platform. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have made the most of their time in the Bay Area by investing in tech, too. Yet, the list of players investing in sustainable models and being educated on how to manage their wealth is slim.
Brown believes the NBPA and the NBA brotherhood collectively can help resolve those issues. He can see a future where former athletes work together to create a thriving and productive business environment that is sustainable for everyone and helps foster wealth management and growth.
“A lot of times, once an athlete is done playing, it’s just like a fall off a cliff, right? You see a lot of them lose a predominant amount of their wealth in the first ten or so years, and then it’s not a lot of avenues that are there in place to make sure that they continue to have revenue streams. So, learning about what it means to be an athlete is also learning about what our value is. We’re also learning about how we can be collectively unified and how we can monetize off our own representation and do business together and make sure that not only are we good throughout our tenure, throughout our playing career, but years and years and years after, we still have opportunities to make money.”
The landscape of the NBA is changing. The social media era has given players more influence and control over their personal brands. It’s empowered the league to reach unimaginable heights as a global entertainment influence, which has in turn, led to consistently rising rights deals for the league and its players.
Brown is clearly at the forefront of the NBPA’s desire to strengthen the voices, freedoms, and influence of the league’s players. He’s here to make a change, both in terms of how players and the league approach business and in how athletes use their voices for social and economic change. On the court, he’s an All-NBA talent. Off of it, he’s a pioneer that will leave the league in far better shape than he found it.