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NBA’s Kevin Durant Looks to Destigmatize Cannabis in Sports

NBA’s Kevin Durant Looks to Destigmatize Cannabis in Sports

The basketball great turns his focus from the court to helping athletes better understand cannabis via a new partnership with Weedmaps.

Only 32-years-old, NBA superstar Kevin Durant already has quite the list of accolades on his resume. Up until now, the majority of his impressive feats have come courtesy of a basketball court, including two NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVP awards, 11 All-Star game appearances, and, most recently, his third gold medal as an Olympian.

Though that seems like it would be more than enough to keep the current Brooklyn Net busy, Durant has recently announced a new joint venture with Weedmaps focused on another subject reportedly near and dear to his heart: cannabis.

While not all specifics of how the partnership between Weedmaps and Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures will play out are yet known, a press release highlighting the news suggests that the multi-year partnership will take the form of an original content series as well as podcasts, co-branded events and exclusive merchandise.

Speaking about the news on an episode of the podcast series Boardroom: Out of Office, which Durant co-hosts with his manager and noted sports entrepreneur Rich Kleiman, the 13-season NBA veteran explained his desire to see more athletes gain a deeper understanding of a plant that he’s long relied on personally.

“The band aid has been ripped off in the sports world,” Durant observed, later adding that he thought “it was always interesting that the rest of the world was a little slower to be open about cannabis and its use, but to see, walking down the street — I live in San Francisco — you walk around the corner, there’s four or five dispensaries right on the corner.”

Personally speaking, Durant has recently become fairly frank in discussing his own cannabis use, which, according to sportswriter Matt Sullivan — who followed Durant and his Brooklyn Nets teammates for two seasons in preparation for a forthcoming book — is a pretty big part of the NBA great’s daily routine.

“He smokes even more weed than you would think,” Sullivan revealed during an appearance earlier this summer on the the Dan Le Batard Show. “I was at his house at one o’clock in the morning. The entire place just reeks. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He doesn’t go on crazy vacations. He doesn’t do anything other than hoop. Like nothing. He’s boring as hell. So going out to him is just blazing.”

Title: NBA’s Kevin Durant Looks to Destigmatize Cannabis in Sports (basketball)

Observations about Durant’s alleged boringness aside, his willingness to approach efforts to destigmatize cannabis in sports from a place of vested interest only adds intrigue to what the new partnership between Thirty Five Ventures (a philanthropic organization founded by Durant) and Weedmaps can accomplish.

The timing also feels astute, as the blowback from runner Sha’Carri Richardson’s ban from participating in the recent Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis continues to bubble over into heated discourse. Durant’s new effort also arrives at a moment when a number of high-profile sports leagues are at last reevaluating their own policies against cannabis – no doubt influenced by the continual choice of states across the U.S. to legalize the plant for either recreational or medical use.

In the last year alone, the NBA, NFL, and MLB have all made strides in evolving their stance on players being tested for cannabis. In the NBA, a temporary policy instituted during the 2019-2020 “bubble season” to no longer randomly drug test players for marijuana was ultimately extended to cover the 2020-2021 season as well. The prospect of this policy staying in place indefinitely also remains in play, with the league instead opting to administer tests only to those who “show signs of problematic dependency.”

2020 also saw changes in the NFL, where the pivot came not in testing but in the possible punitive results of potential positive tests. Thanks to the league’s most recent collective bargaining agreement, NFL players are no longer at risk of being suspended for testing positive for cannabis – or any drug, for that matter. Furthermore, the league is also now funding research into both cannabis and CBD.

Ditto the MLB, which opted for a similar course in 2019. Notably, baseball players are still forbidden from being under the influence while on the job and are still prohibited from partnering with legal cannabis businesses.

Already the news has drawn positive feedback from one of Durant’s former teammates: Matt Barnes. Having played with Durant on the Golden State Warriors, Barnes has subsequently retired from the league and become a notable figure in the California cannabis industry.

Speaking with ESPN, Barnes – who has been open about consuming cannabis for much of his own 14-year-career – explained why Durant’s new venture was an ideal path forward in pursuit of positive change.

“There’s a shifting culture and it takes a superstar like KD to embrace this and help others not be afraid to discuss the benefits,” Barnes observed. “This has been a process. There have been meetings going on with the league and union for several years and both sides have hired experts to investigate this. This is a big step.”

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