No person should be just any one thing. The most interesting people are truly a kaleidoscope of energy, skills and talents. Successful people transform those interests into action with results that propel themselves and those around them. Former NBA player, Roger Mason Jr., is such a person. For the uninitiated, it might come as a shock to find out that Mason Jr. is a well-connected influencer and behind the scenes business man. But his brand, reputation and ultimately his success are all by design.
What seems to make him different is the fact he is always paying attention. He listens, he watches and takes advantage of opportunities others may overlook. While he was a crafty sharp-shooting role-playing guard on the court…he’s more like LeBron James in the boardroom.
Mason Jr. took a few minutes to discuss his post playing career success and the philosophy that got him there during Miami’s Art Basel weekend after taking part in yet another venture.
Warren Shaw: As a man of many interests how did the partnership between you and Remy Martin form for Miami’s Art Basel?
Roger Mason: The event was just an extension of the bigger program, which is the Remy MVP experience. I decided to be a part of it based on my career in basketball and what it means to be an MVP. Hard work—the time, effort and dedication…all those characteristics you see in an MVP I think are aligned with Remy. With their cognac, their craftsmanship and teamwork it all blends with what that the brand stands for. This event was just an extension of what will be happening in L.A. in February with the big basketball weekend (NBA All-Star). Remy is going to continue to offer exclusive experiences throughout that weekend so the (Art Basel) game was kind of kickoff. The main event is in L.A. and during that time there will be some exclusive dinners and some different activations. They are also doing a contest with GQ to allow fans and consumers to fly out to L.A. and be a part of the experience. Use the hashtag #RemyMVP on Instagram, take some pictures of your best style and you might be selected to go out there to experience it.
WS: Remy MVP is just one of many ventures you are a part of. The most recent that many can identify with is your involvement in the Big 3 league. How satisfied were you with the success of the Big 3 and what can we expect out of the league in year two?
RM: Season one, we certainly thought, was a huge success. Being a part of Big 3 with Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz was a great experience. One of the things we heard last year was how great it would have been if the games were live. So that’s something we were looking at and wanted to make happen. The games are going to be live on Fox from 8p.m.-11p.m. eastern and it’s a big deal.
Pretty much half the games will be on national platforms. So overall, the area we thought would make this thing even better we were able to do. I also think the players are going to better next year. They know what to expect. They know how to train and get their bodies ready for the 10-week season. So, we expect the game play to be better and for the talent pool to be better as well.
WS: How involved are you in that talent recruitment process? Many of the current players have given you credit for getting them involved obviously with ties to your days of activity with the player’s association. But just how deep is that recruitment role for you with the Big 3?
RM: It’s one of my roles. Coming from the player’s association, repping the guys, playing in the league for 11 years, I was fortunate to build great relationships. Just giving guys the vision of what the league was going to look like last year—that was a big part of getting those guys on board. Having that trust where they know when I told them this would be something that was first class, player-friendly, competitive and then being able to deliver on the words that I spoke to those guys was key. In year two we’ll be going after some guys who weren’t a part of it last year and we think it will be even better.
WS: Any tidbits or teaser names that you can reveal to me right now regarding players you are trying to get to join Big 3 next season?
RM: Yeah. We are talking to Paul Pierce who says he’s got some gas in the tank and I think he’d be a really solid 3-on-3 player. We are talking to Shawn Marion. We got Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) locked in. We are talking to KG (Kevin Garnett). I’ve talked to Tim Duncan. We are talking to guys that still have a skill set and that can play. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer are two other guys we are talking to. We expect this year, with the added roster spot, to increase the talent pool.
WS: You do have extensive reach around the league and while you were heavily involved in the player’s association, there are still only a handful of guys who are kind of universally liked around the league. You played for a couple different teams and became a NBA journeyman for lack of a better phrase. Did that help set you up for the success and the positive relationships you have now?
RM: I think that’s a great point. I was able to play 11 years in the league with seven different teams. I came across and became teammates with a lot of guys. Not only that, I really fell in love with being a player rep, being on the executive committee and being a guy who delivered information to players about the business of the game. From that, over the course of my career—going through the lockout—and being a voice that delivered information I think it had me well-positioned to be a part of the player’s association. You know before that, all the programs the player’s association had to offer for me as a player I participated in. I literally participated in every program. It gave me perspective on what the union could be moving forward. It gave me perspective on what programs had impact and were good. I think those are things that Michelle Roberts looked at when she hired me. Not only did I know pretty much every player in the league, or at least have some sort of a relationship them, but I also knew what programs and services guys should actually use and what things we needed to add to.
WS: Roger, so many guys have a cup of coffee in the league then kind of fade. How did you know it would be different for you? At what point did you know you would be different and have continued longevity with this heightened business acumen?
RM: The way I always looked at my time in the NBA is that I felt that would have more success off the court than on the court. So, I wanted to use basketball as a platform to get ready for my career. I was fortunate to play over 10 years. I think that, if at times I would have been 100 percent basketball and wasn’t thinking about my career after basketball, maybe I would have made a little bit more money. I started a company when I played with the Wizards in 2006—it’s a company that I still have. Things like that, for me, Ive tried to do a good job of balancing it and I think I did. But I just always had an eye and thought about life after basketball and I wanted to get a head start as soon as I got into the NBA.
WS: That’s smart and I’m sure that’s a message that you share with some players in the league today. You just have your hands in so many different avenues. One of those avenues is an app called Vaunt that you are heavily involved in. Can you tell me a little about how it works and how you expect that platform to blow up?
RM: It’s an extension of what I’ve been doing in my career. I started a record label when I played with the Knicks. I started it as a part of Universal Republic. I got a chance to get ingrained in music and make great contacts there. Obviously playing basketball, working at the union, getting to know all the other unions in the other sports/leagues helped us build a product and platform that allowed influencers throughout all verticals an opportunity to control their content.
We wanted them to create their own channels with their fans of their lifestyle content. So that’s petty much what Vaunt is. It’s an app that allows celebrities and influencers a way to control their content. It’s all original. It allows their fans to follow their lives in a way that’s not out there right now. We launched with Antonio Brown and we’ve been following him all season. His potentially MVP season this year we’ve been shooting him every day at 6 a.m. to show that work and dedication.
WS: Who else can we expect to see on Vaunt and is the app pay only?
RM: It’s free. There is content you can get for free every day then there is a premium side where you get exclusive access. The premium side is $2.99 a month and allows you the opportunity to follow your favorite celebrity up close and personal. Some of the other celebrities we have are Post Malone and Mike Will Made-It from a music standpoint. Then in sports, we got Ronaldo Lima, the original Ronaldo from Brazil. We’ve got Gabriel Jesus and Kyle Lowry. We’ve been shooting Kristaps Porzingis just before he even got drafted. I still remember when those boos happened in New York as Porzingis got drafted. We thought that this kid had a chance to be a star and took a bet on him.
A big part of Vaunt is my partner and I understanding culture. Understanding who are going to be the next ones. You know my partner told me about Cardi B years ago and we are going to be shooting content with her. I think it will like the same bet we took on Porzingis before he reached “The Unicorn” status. We just really want to help drive culture and we think we have an eye for it.
WS: Reaching influencers is such a key component in this space right now. How in essence will Vaunt standout against the other behind the scenes initiatives out there to be at the forefront of this space and platform?
RM: I think it starts with the founders, Omari (Ware) and I, being able to have people and influencers on the platform that really drive culture. I think for us it’s premium content. This isn’t the type of stuff that you can just get anywhere. It’s all original high-quality content that allows these fans to see the influencers in a different way. Finally, Vaunt is also a network. We have all kinds of different verticals from beauty, fitness, sports and music. It’s not just in the sports or music worlds—it spans throughout every vertical that you can think of.
WS: So, what about you as content creator on your on platform? Will the camera catch you behind the scenes making some of these major deals? I think people would like to see how to become an influencer and business man or woman. Will you have your own channel on the platform?
RM: Yeah. We are going to have a culture channel. Throughout this whole process while we’ve been shooting I do hear from people all the time that this is content that they’d be interested in seeing. We’ll continue to do that and, for me, it’s always about inspiring and to help guys transition from whatever it is they’re doing. For me, the athlete transitioning into business should span beyond and above athletics.
WS: You’ve accomplished a lot. To date, what are you most proud of both from a personal standpoint and a professional standpoint? What do you think you want to do next?
RM: I love the question because outside of my kids—which are my greatest accomplishment, what we were able to do at the player’s association with getting all former players (who had played at least three years) healthcare was something that I really felt strongly about and spearheaded along with Michelle Roberts. The current players stepped up big time covering the costs. I mean, what better way to say thank you to the generation that helped get these contracts so big than to create a program that helps take care of all the former guys who paved the way. That was something that I was really focused on during my time at the union and is for sure for me my most proud accomplishment that I’ve had.
WS: Kudos to you and the team at union for that. It’s something to hang your hat on there. But even the busiest of people need relax. With all that you are involved in how do you find the time to relax and what do you do especially as a family man?
RM: I’m a guy that is driven by my work. These are the things that I enjoy doing. It’s pretty much like how it was when I played. Me going to the gym and working on my jump shot was never work. While others looked at it as work, for me it was a passion and something I enjoyed doing. The pendulum switched at some point for me to business and business became the same way basketball used to be. With that said everybody needs their release and for me I’m a homebody at heart. I’m comfortable being at the house with the kids watching movies and just relaxing. My release comes through that.
WS: I’m going to be nosey. What’s on the T.V. when you are relaxing with the wife and kids?
RM: Well you know I have a five and a six-year-old. So, we are watching a lot of family movies, Disney movies—a lot of Elsa and things like that but for me it’s just about the quality time.
WS: So wait are you in the house singing songs alongside the kids watching movies like Frozen in your flops?
RM: I don’t know about singing songs (laughing) but I’m definitely in the house with all those kids shows on. That’s for sure.