Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures invests in New York esports organization Andbox

Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman
Rich Kleiman and Kevin Durant. Thirty Five Ventures
  • Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures has joined forces with New York esports organization Andbox as investors and creative partners.
  • Thirty Five Ventures plans to work closely with Andbox on new merchandise, product releases, content creation, tournament hosting, and more, in a partnership that Kleiman called a “no-brainer.”
  • Durant’s passion for gaming and the two companies’ shared stage of New York influenced the business decision.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Thirty Five Ventures, the business portfolio co-owned by Brooklyn Nets star and two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant and his manager Rich Kleiman, has partnered with premier New York esports organization Andbox in a move that capitalizes on the New York market’s large audience of passionate sports and entertainment fans.

Andbox is home to the New York Excelsior (NYXL) professional esports team, the first of its kind, in addition to the New York Subliners (NYSL) in the Call of Duty League and a professional VALORANT team. Top content creators and streamers flock to the Andbox organization, which has frequently hosted live events for the gaming community at large to network, play, and watch tournaments at major venues.

Durant, an avid gamer and longtime fan of esports, plans to work closely with Andbox across a range of initiatives, spanning from new merchandise and product releases to content creation, tournament hosting, collaboration with Andbox players, and more. By partnering with a well-known name in the sports industry, Andbox hopes to amplify and showcase esports franchises to a mainstream audience and expand representation in the New York market.

“There hasn’t been an offline experience in New York when it comes to esports, a place to congregate and meet like-minded people and attend events. That was a big part of early fandom that we saw,” said Andbox co-founder and president Farzam Kamel in a call with Business Insider. “An organization like us is bringing investment into the ecosystem here. We’re getting sophisticated capital that’s investing in all the different touch points that consumers want in the medium – events, consumer and digital products, content, things that are new to the audience here and create a much more rich and meaningful connection between fans and esports brands.”

Andbox isn’t new to partnerships; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The company has established itself as a secure investment to brands like United Airlines and T-Mobile since its start in 2017, emphasizing transparency and professionalism in all of its brand deals, many of which are multi-year deals with first-time esports investors. Each brand that’s welcomed into the equation offers an original perspective to their business, Kamel said in the call.

Thirty Five Ventures’ decision to invest in the professional gaming space – adding Andbox to its carefully curated portfolio – was a “no brainer,” according to co-founder and entrepreneur Rich Kleiman. Durant’s entry into esports began with NBA 2k, where he built a community for himself connecting with individual players. He later expanded into the Call of Duty realm and continues to seek ways to learn from and engage with talented players.

“Kevin has been big into the gaming space for some time now and while I am not a gamer myself, after hearing how passionate he’s been about it over the last several years and starting to educate myself more on the market itself, I really started to take more interest in it from a business perspective,” Kleiman said in a recent phone call with Business Insider. “Andbox was on brand for Kevin from the gaming perspective and for me from the New York perspective.”

Both Kleiman and Kamel spoke to the unique New York energy that is replicated on and off-court across sporting mediums and attributed it as a central focal point behind their partnership’s synergy. While the COVID-19 pandemic has halted live audiences from filling stadiums to capacity crowds, the excitement and connection to the game and its players remain intact, especially on a world stage like New York.

“New York sports fans are some of the most passionate and devoted fans in the world, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that more than now with an incredible Nets team and the Knicks looking better than they have in years,” Kleiman said. “That’s where I see huge opportunity for Andbox – New Yorkers are all-in, and being able to expose more New Yorkers to the esports world is going to make for an incredible fan base.”

The overlap of audience energy for basketball and gaming was a huge factor in forging the partnership on both ends – New York is home to a powerful esports fan base in addition to a traditional sports fan base. Many potential esports followers have yet to be tapped and brought into the ecosystem, which Kamel predicts will change as a result of collaborating with Thirty Five Ventures.

Kamel was once a potential follower, considering himself a “converted believer” in esports after the industry captured his attention and pulled him in. “I get the same sort of goosebumps and thrills watching our teams play as I do watching my favorite traditional sports teams,” Kamel said. “It’s the same, and anyone who doesn’t see that hasn’t immersed themselves in the space and followed it.”

The two companies are currently meeting regularly with their teams to discuss strategy and opportunities for business development. Going forward, Kamel expressed his desire for their creative efforts to be authentic to Durant and his genuine connection to gaming and the community, which Kleiman intends to execute in their upcoming work together.

As for the future of this partnership, Kleiman believes that basketball fans are going to become more aware of the personalities and fashion collaborations in the gaming community in the same way they’re aware in traditional sports.

“Basketball players are gaming fans as much as gamers are basketball fans,” Kleiman said. “It’s similar to the ways that hip-hop and basketball started to influence each other in the late ’90s, and that’s really exciting to me.”