- Stephen Curry has a hand in everything these days, maintaining his status as an NBA star while building a media empire. But he doesn't do it alone. Meet Jeron Smith, the man helping Curry make it all happen.
Scrolling on Jeron Smith’s Instagram feed you will witness the timeline of someone who might appear to have the coolest life ever.
Scroll through recent years and there are pictures of him alongside the Golden State Warriors celebrating championships.
Scroll a little more and you will see Smith chatting with former President Barack Obama and lounging around the White House on a hoverboard.
Scroll even farther down and you will see him standing next to Nike Chairman and founder Phil Knight. You might also see a Forbes 30 under 30 post on Smith, touting him as one of the rising marketing and advertising talents.
So who exactly is Jeron Smith? He is the man Stephen Curry picked to his run his business and turn it into an empire.
Throughout the past few years, we have witnessed the rise of middlemen in NBA circles. They are the connectors of dots, the bridges that bring athletes to business and entertainment. For every historic Nike or Liverpool deal LeBron James lands there is Mav Carter behind the scenes. For every Postmates or Acorn investment Kevin Durant makes through his Thirty Five Ventures company there is Rich Kleimann closing the deal. Michael Jordan had former agent David Falk in his corner as most of his historic endorsement deals were signed. Now Curry has found his partner in Smith, who maintains roles as CMO of SC30 Inc. and CEO of Unanimous Media, where he works with Curry on a wide range of businesses within his portfolio, from dabbling in movies and TV shows to scouting locations overseas for Curry’s “Underrated” basketball camps through Rakuten.
“In my role now, it somewhat brings the two unique experiences together,” says Smith. “I’ve been commissioned to help Stephen inspire, impact and empower. We implore storytelling through media as a vehicle to achieve this. Steph is truly a special person. He is more than just a superstar basketball player and this foray into the entertainment business is another example of his varied interests and versatility.”
In the new age of the NBA, players have taken more power in their own hands and expanded their business endeavors. Whether that is through tech (see Andre Iguodala), fashion (see Russell Westbrook) or music (see Damian Lillard). While the success has reached new levels, exploring the entertainment and media business is nothing new in the NBA. Shaquille O’Neal has starred in multiple films such as cult-classic Blue Chips, Kazaam and Steel. Jordan was in Space Jam but things changed when players started to take ownership and produce their own content. Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for his Dear Basketball project. Various players have podcasts, including C.J. McCollum, JJ Redick, Gilbert Arenas and Josh Hart. Arguably the top three players in the NBA, James, Durant and Curry have found their passion in creating content within their own media companies. But as busy as these players are during the season, it would be impossible for them to do it by themselves—that is where Smith comes in to help Curry.
Smith, a native of Chino Hills, Calif., is a former Division I basketball player (Howard University). But after his basketball dreams didn’t pan out, he still wanted to be around the game and used business and strategy as the vehicle. He earned master degrees from Columbia and Georgetown. He worked at Nike as a brand manager across several categories—including Jordan Brand—and created the “Basketball Never Stops” campaign during the 2011 NBA lockout. He then took an offer he couldn’t refuse as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives at the White House during the final year of Barack Obama’s presidential term.
At the end of his run at the White House, Smith connected with Bryant Barr, a former college teammate of Curry who now serves as a business partner. Barr, who also worked at Nike during Smith’s tenure, told Smith that Curry wanted to expand his business. Fast-forward a year later, Curry, Smith and producer/director Erick Peyton formed Unanimous Media, a brand new production company that took Curry a year to develop. The name of the company refers to Curry being the first unanimous MVP in NBA history and his stance that every member in his production collection must all agree on a project.
Unanimous found a partner in Sony Pictures, which offered the six-time All-Star the biggest media deal for any athlete ever.
It is not hard to see why film executives and companies like Sony want to partner with Curry. He is a rare relatable global superstar. He doesn't have the build of Jordan nor LeBron. Despite having a father who played in the NBA, he was considered a longshot to make it to the league, let alone be the face of a historic franchise. Curry is also viewed as the ultimate family man, and most of his projects are centered around the family, faith and sports themes.
“Stephen has an incredible platform and with that, a unique opportunity to reach people around the world,” says Smith. “We wanted to use that platform to impact and inspire. Entertainment is one of the most powerful mediums there is and we want to use that as a vehicle to reach the masses and uplift and inspire. We knew there were plenty of incredible stories out there, and we wanted to be a part of bringing some of them to life.”
The most important thing for the Unanimous team was identifying projects that align with who Stephen is and the impact he wants to have on the world. The key was authenticity. One year in, the Unanimous Media team has produced a feature film entitled Breakthrough, documentaries called Jump Shot and Emanuel, a TV show named Holey Moley for ABC, as well the Facebook docuseries Stephen vs The Game.
Smith made sure to state that Curry is involved with every projects.
“Stephen’s focus will always remain on his on-court prowess but he is heavily involved and passionate about using his platform to inspire and bring families together,” says Smith. “We see Unanimous as a powerful vehicle to achieve this. Nothing happens at Unanimous without Stepehn’s eyes on it or buy-in—he has identified compelling stories, read scripts, provided production notes, promoted projects and weighed in on core strategy.”
An example of this is the role Curry played with Breakthrough. Stephen played a major role in promoting and marketing the film. He read the script (during the season while on the road) in 24 hours and knew he wanted to be a part of it. He provided production notes, weighed in on key scenes and got creative to push the promotion, enlisting Under Armour to create a custom Breakthrough colorway of his Curry 6 signature shoe that he wore during the playoffs to drive additional awareness and buzz for the film. He also created 200 limited edition shoes with this colorway to gift to influencers.
Smith states that the responses to Unanimous projects have been overwhelmingly positive and the group is excited about creating more content in the future.
“We waited for the right time to enter into the space and we’re approaching it in our own way," Smith says. "It’s a crowded space, but there’s plenty of impactful stories to tell, and there can never be enough engaging, quality storytelling. This is just the beginning for us. We have ambitious growth plans and are working on some exciting (and game-changing) new initiatives.”