Speaking upon the release of NBA 2K22, which features Durant sharing the iconic video game cover of the NBA 75th Anniversary Special Edition alongside fellow legends Dirk Nowitzki and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Brooklyn Nets forward spoke passionately about ‘Just Women’s Sports’, an initiative he’s driving on his own dime through his company Thirty Five Ventures (35V).
“The attention around women’s sports definitely needs to grow, in my opinion, and I think ‘Just Women’s Sports’ have done a great job of telling unique stories specifically to these athletes around different sports,” Durant told Wide World of Sports.
“To be aligned with that I thought it was perfect for us and we look forward to helping them grow and helping continue to push that message that, you know, we should watch women’s sports even more than they are.”
Earlier this year, it was announced media start-up ‘Just Women’s Sports’ had raised $4.68 million in funding, with Thirty Five Ventures having a significant portion of that investment.
As one of basketball’s highest paid players through contract and sponsorship earnings, Durant has been able to actively pursue off-court interests through his company, investing in everything from film production – which won him an Academy Award for a short film he produced – to NFT virtual display technology, to stadium construction, to healthcare fund Lively, which has over half a billion in assets.
Durant and his long-time manager, Rich Kleiman, said in an interview in March they planned to be more than just investors for ‘Just Women’s Sports’, and actually want to use the two-time NBA champion’s elite network of sports stars and celebrities to help grow the startup into a “sports media juggernaut”.
Durant told Wide World of Sports that women’s sports is finally being seen in a more positive light by all, not just female sports fans, and he wants that to continue.
“It’s just as entertaining as it is for men as well,” the 2014 NBA MVP said.
“We here at 35V, we thought that was one of those things that was super important for us as we move forward.”
Durant doesn’t just talk the talk either, he walks the walk as a self-confessed WNBA superfan. He was extra excited to see Candace Parker become the first female basketball player on the cover of NBA 2K22 for the WNBA 25th Anniversary Special Edition being released on September 10.
Durant said his favourite WNBA player to watch is Jonquel Jones, because, well, ‘game recognises game’.
“She reminds me of myself with her length and how she shoots the ball. I’m a huge fan of her,” he said.
“Charli Collier, she went to [University of] Texas as the No.1 [WNBA draft] pick, so I follow her too.
“But I pretty much follow all the girls and try to keep up with the box scores and see how they are doing each night and watch as much as I can.
“The game of basketball is incredible no matter who is on the floor, I feel. So I enjoy watching the WNBA.”
Durant believes one of the main reasons women’s sports such as the WNBA has experienced such growth in popularity in recent years is due to the development of social media which is able to reach new audiences in all new ways.
He said women’s sports’ rise is yet to reach its full potential, though.
“Women’s sports I always felt was putting a good product out on the floor but a lot of people weren’t recognising it before, and I think with the social media boom, you get a deeper insight into the athletes and you get to see how hard that they work and how tough it is to play their sport,” Durant said.
“I think more people start to relate to these athletes, which brings more eyes and I think it’s growing exponentially. And as a professional athlete, it’s always important to support and to bring awareness to these athletes and what they do on and off the floor, so I only see it getting better from here.
“Just continue to support it and watch and get as many people to watch as possible.
“Once people build up the love for the game, they’ll understand a little bit more. They love that we are athletic, and we [men’s basketball] can get over the top of the rim and excite people with our athleticism, and a lot of fans feel the women’s game is lacking that, but if you really lock in and enjoy the skill and fundamentals of the game, it’s even higher to watch.
“Try to take in a game more and have an open mind when you’re watching the game, that will help.”
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