“We’re giving people an opportunity to … chase their dreams. I’ve been able to chase mine, so I want people to chase theirs as well.”
That’s how LeBron James described CNBC’s newest TV show, Cleveland Hustles, when he visited Trevor Noah on The Daily Show last week. Hustles, which debuts at 10 p.m. Wednesday, features four Cleveland business leaders who act as the pseudo-Sharks: Kumar Arora, Kathy Futey, Alan Glazen and Jonathon Sawyer.
What the investors provide the eight local businesses throughout the show (and to the four winners after it all ends), goes beyond money. “The four of us have decided that besides our personal investment, if we could choose, we want to help others,” said Kathy Futey, one of the show’s investors. “We want to give an opportunity to people that wouldn’t normally have access to capital like that or to talent.” She believes this is going to be bigger than even James envisioned. “He’s gonna see that the four of us have opened our hearts. That’s just who we are.”
Despite some of Cleveland’s documented economic hardships, the city is booming in some important places. Just last year, Cleveland came in at No. 35 on a Top 50 Entrepreneur Friendly Cities list, ahead of places such as Atlanta and New Orleans. “You know,” Arora said of Cleveland, “we work a little harder, we care about the people next to us, we care about our neighbors.” Arora is from Cleveland and went to high school there. “I was the last kid picked in school,” Arora said. “I was the nerd who was building robots and programming and doing DNA research when I was in high school, and so the fact that LeBron chose me as one of the investors — just some kid from Cleveland? It means a lot to me.”
Though they’ve been paired together since Beal’s rookie season of 2012, Wall and Beal admit they haven’t exactly found common ground yet.
“I think with Coach Brooks coming in, he’s going to hold everybody accountable, starting with me,” Wall said. “Just make sure everybody know what their role is. If everybody buys into their role, we’ll be fine.”
Part of the problem, according to Beal, might be that he and Wall are so alike.
“When you fail in your hometown, that’s as bad as it gets, and I love my hometown,” said Walton, who grew up in La Mesa, 9 miles east of downtown San Diego. “I wish we had NBA basketball here, and we don’t because of me.”
When Walton signed with the San Diego Clippers in 1979, he had missed the previous season with a foot injury. But the center was arguably the NBA’s best player after leading the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1976-77 championship and winning the league’s MVP award for 1977-78. The Buffalo Braves had relocated to San Diego and been rechristened in 1978, and his homecoming was supposed to jump-start the franchise in its second season on the West Coast. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s my greatest failure as a professional in my entire life,” Walton said. “I could not get the job done in my hometown. It is a stain and stigma on my soul that is indelible. I’ll never be able to wash that off, and I carry it with me forever.”
He appeared in just 14 games his first season with the Clippers and missed the following two seasons because of multiple surgeries on his foot. Walton returned in 1982-83 and played in 88 games over the next two seasons, which would prove to be the Clippers’ last in San Diego. They moved to Los Angeles in 1984, and Walton played one season in their new home before being traded to the Boston Celtics. He finished his career in Boston and in 1985-86 won an NBA title and was named Sixth Man of the Year.
Now a college basketball analyst for ESPN, Walton is known for his penchant for hyperbole. But there’s no exaggeration as he somberly recalls his five injury-riddled seasons in San Diego. Had he stayed healthy and been the player he was in Portland, Walton believes the Clippers would have won and never moved north.