Kevin Durant in Detroit: I chose Nets because 'New York is the best city'

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — NBA All-Star Kevin Durant took a slight jab at the Pistons and said New York was the best city Tuesday while speaking on basketball and business to thousands of young professionals in Detroit.

Durant headed to the Brooklyn Nets over the summer, after leaving the Golden State Warriors three seasons on. Switching coasts as a free agent, Durant spoke on what made him choose the Nets, saying "it's self-explanatory."

NBA star Kevin Durant, left, listens to moderator Steven Bertoni, VP & Senior Editor of  Forbes during the lunch session Tuesday at the  Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit.

"That’s the best city in the world," he said to uproarious crowds. "There’s so much opportunity and (it's) such a diverse town. Everybody knows what New York is about. The Brooklyn Nets is an organization that was up-and-coming that have a lot of qualities I look for in a basketball franchise."

When asked about his NBA predictions, the two-time NBA Champion, Finals MVP and 10-time All-Star said the Los Angeles Clippers are looking good but "I don't know about the Pistons."

It didn't sit well with the Motor City crowd.

Durant and Rich Kleiman co-founded Thiry Five Ventures in 2017. Both joined the Forbes Under 30 Summit speaker lineup at the Masonic Temple where Durant was welcomed to the stage with chants of "MVP! MVP!"

The duo was interviewed by Steven Bertoni, Vice President and Senior Editor of Forbes, sharing their insights, lessons learned and first-hand experiences on and off the court during the Summit.

The company serves as an umbrella firm for Durant and Kleiman's business interests in sports, tech and culture. It includes Durant's personal brand and investments in companies like Acorns, Coinbase, Overtime and Postmates. 

"When you’re one of the best players of the league, all the doors are pretty much open for you and so I felt like I had a lot of work to do on the basketball court and a lot of learning to do off the court for me to get to this point," Durant said. 

Kleiman and Durant built a 15-person team that works on only a few select projects. Kleiman said the pair put in a lot of time to build a business that was founded on trust and respect.

"I think we work flawlessly together. I think in order for Kevin to do what he does on the court and get himself in the game, which is precedent over everything else, there has to be a trust factor and a vision that he has that I can put to task," Kleiman said. "I think the sky is the limit for what we're starting to develop."

NBA star Kevin Durant talks about his basketball career and how it has opened doors for him as co-founder of Thirty Five Ventures, a company  that invests in tech companies.

They also use Thirty Five Ventures to pursue creative development projects including their media company with ESPN's "The Boardroom," a scripted series "SWAGGER" with Imagine Entertainment and Apple, and a documentary on Durant's hometown of Prince George's County in Maryland.

Durant was sidelined after he suffered an Achilles injury during the NBA Finals in June while playing for Golden State. Earlier this year, he landed in the No. 10 spot on Forbes' highest-paid athlete list at $65.4 million in earnings.

He's taking those paychecks and turning them into businesses. He said he wanted to continue buying real estate in his hometown and said is unsure of his next move.

"I want to have something that’s able to sustain and have that longevity," Durant said. "We don’t have an exit plan or a specific plan for the next few years, we just want to keep working for as long as possible and continue to pivot and find different things."

Now in its sixth year, the Forbes Under 30 Summit, sponsored by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, brings together 7,000 of the most successful entrepreneurs and young leaders from 70 countries.

Superfan Jonathan Frieling, a strategy consultant from Lawrence, New York, attended the Forbes Summit to network and said it was inspirational to see one of his idols within reach.

The luncheon crowd at Masonic Temple listens to NBA star Kevin Durant speak Tuesday..** NBA All-Star Kevin Durant is a Tuesday speaker at the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Detroit. Durant is a 12-year NBA veteran who plays for the Brooklyn Nets. Off the court, Durant is co-founder and partner of Thirty Five Ventures. Thirty Five Ventures companies such as Postmates, Acorns, Overtime, & Coinbase., October 29, 2019. Detroit, Mi. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./The Detroit News)

"Seeing him on the court and then here in person is amazing,” said Frieling, 24. "I really had no idea about all the things he’s working on. To know how much he’s made this year and to still be so dedicated and learn about his motivation to keep going is really inspiring."

In recognition of Detroit's rebirth and the role played by entrepreneurs, the summit will return to Detroit in 2020 and 2021, organizers said.

Durant said he wasn’t sure what the next door he wants to open but said it feels good to be in the prime of his career.

"The game is beautiful. There’s an underlying message when you are watching the game of basketball so of course, it’s going to get around the world."

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Twitter: @SarahRahal_