NBA star Durant buys stake in Philly Union

    Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant officially joined the ranks of sports team owners on Monday with the announcement that he purchased a stake in the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer.

Durant acquired 5% of the Union, with an option to purchase an additional 5% at a later date. He joins the likes of Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson as investors in MLS teams; Harden owns a stake in the Houston Dynamo, while Wilson owns a stake in the Seattle Sounders.

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The deal also includes a partnership with Thirty Five Ventures, the business and philanthropic entity run by Durant and sports business executive Rich Kleiman. That aspect of the deal will focus on growing the team’s brand worldwide, working closely with the Union on marketing opportunities and expanding the organization’s community outreach in conjunction with the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation (KDCF).

“I’ve been a fan of the sport, and then seeing how fast the popularity of the league was growing, seeing more fans pop up in different cities around the country, and then seeing how these franchises impact the city’s businesses and people individually was very intriguing,” Durant told ESPN in an exclusive interview.

According to Jay Sugarman, the Union’s majority owner, the team is valued at over $325 million. That would put the valuation of Durant’s stake at a minimum of $16.25 million. And he expects Durant to use his experiences both on and off the court to give the Union a valuable perspective on how to grow the organization.

“Having Kevin and his team joining in a really significant capacity gives us something special, something unique,” Sugarman told ESPN. “He’s a champion and a sports icon, but he’s also a philanthropist and a community icon. He brings exactly what we need, that champion mentality on the field, but also that impact off the field.”

Durant isn’t giving up his day job anytime soon, even as he continues to rehab from the Achilles tendon tear he suffered during last year’s NBA finals, when he was with the Golden State Warriors. He doesn’t anticipate that he’ll have any difficulty balancing his commitments, especially with Philadelphia just 100 miles away or so.

“They’ve partnered with Thirty Five Ventures, so we have a full staff, and this is a huge part of our portfolio,” said Durant about the Union. “This is going to add to what we’ve been doing, so we’re looking forward to taking on this project.”

Durant added that he still dreams of owning an NBA team someday, though he admits, “That’s easier said than done.”

He added: “I would love to. [Owning an NBA team] is the goal, that’s the plan. But who knows? It’s a tough business to get into obviously. You need a lot of capital to do it. But I’m just learning the business, learning the sport, really keeping my love for the sport. I think that will lead me in the right direction. We’ll see what happens.”

Durant is a two-time NBA champion — both of his titles were won with the Warriors — as well as a 10-time All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist. He was named the league’s MVP while with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2014.

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