Thaddeus Young using break from basketball to focus on the game of business

"I’ve had the chance to focus on everything outside basketball, which is my family first and second the business ventures I’m into."
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Sam Smith checks in with Bulls forward Thaddeus Young, who is using the hiatus to focus on his business ventures

Thad Young is out of work. So it was time to get back to work.

At his side job. The one that probably will eventually make him more than the approximately $100 million in NBA contracts he's earned already.

"We're all anxious to get back," says the senior Bull, a veteran of 13 NBA seasons. "Continue to try to get better as a group and try to uplift the guys and try to make sure when we can to lock in and focus on the the things we have to do. For me personally, I'll always be optimistic regardless of the situation and be the guy who will be there for my teammates whether I have differences with somebody or not. I'll bring it to the forefront for the most part and be there for my guys and the franchise."

Young has done that this season, albeit quietly, often raising questions and concerns behind closed doors, concentrating on a united front amidst one of his most difficult seasons. The Bulls are in the midst of organizational changes just as it has been a change for Young this season, coming off the bench for the first time in eight years before injuries elevated him back to starting.

Thaddeus Young has averaged 14.2 points as a starter this season.

Thaddeus Young has averaged 14.2 points as a starter this season.

Even in the reduced role, Young often has excelled. He's averaged 14.2 points as a starter after fewer than 10 points through January. And then shooting 52 percent on threes in February once he became a regular starter. It's the equity Young brings as an NBA veteran with the most playoff experience on the team.

Young knows something about equity both on and off the basketball court.

With this shelter-in-place NBA hiatus because of the virus, Young has shifted from the basketball court not only to his role as home school math teacher—"not bad so far because they're doing double digit multiplication"—but the multiple exponents for Reform Ventures, his private equity and investment company that finances startup companies.

An exceptional student/athlete with a plus-four high school GPA and now a master's degree after one year at Georgia Tech, Young is among a growing cadre of NBA players who are investing in a future beyond the game. Many of the Golden State Warriors players, like Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala became involved because of their professional proximity to access to the Silicon Valley investors in the Bay Area. Young is from Memphis, where he still resides on the offseason and has his Young for Youth foundation for at-risk youth.

And so beyond his NBA travels through Philadelphia, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Indiana and the Bulls this season, the 6-8 forward has been equally aggressive off the court.

"Just being in the house with the kids," says Young. "The kids (TJ first grade, Taylor fourth grade) are doing fine. They don't have to go to school, so they are happy about that. But over the course of time they do get a little bored and we have to figure out things for them to do. So we started to put together our own little schedule. The teacher will send some work. Once they get done with that we add our own. Me and my wife. Well, my wife, Shekinah, mostly. She prints work sheets out. Our oldest, TJ, he can sit and play video games for seven days straight without coming out of his room; he'll forget to eat. Taylor, the younger one, he'll play but doesn't have the attention span. He asks a million questions. So we keep them busy with projects, also."

That's right, Young and the restless.

Thaddeus Young is currently in his 14th NBA season.

Thaddeus Young is currently in his 14th NBA season.

"We'll go outside (Lakeview townhouse with a deck on the garage) and shoot a few hoops," says Young. "Just trying to get them outside moving around a little bit to try to stay active."

And then Young keeps active with some workouts the Bulls have passed on and, as always, keeping his mind active with his business ventures.

"I've had the chance to focus on everything outside basketball, which is my family first and second the business ventures I'm into. It's given me a chance to take a lot of the meetings I'm not able to during the season," Young explained. "When we get into a city we have team meetings after flying in and then there's practice, preparing for practice; it's about basketball.

"So for now it's given me a chance to dive into the business stuff I have going," said Young. "I can sit on the phone with my team and advisors and be on the calls as opposed to them doing all the due diligence and giving me a report. I can ask my own questions and have meetings with officials of those companies."

Which is not insignificant or a hobby. Because Young's firm is investing in these nascent enterprises, the engines that drive the U.S. economy. And perhaps even more significantly now with the economic retreat in the wake of the coronavirus.

Young's company invests in these startups hoping, as many do, for the next Uber, Instagram or AirBnB. Reform Ventures has had investments in DraftKings, Pinterest and SpaceX, among others.

"We do it in early stage growth or late stage companies," says Young. "The same stuff people in Silicon Valley are doing. But I also have a real estate portfolio where we're invested in apartment complexes, condo buildings, hospitals, strip malls, single and multi-family housing. A lot of different things across the board."

 Young goes up for a contested shot at the hoop vs. Phoenix.

Young goes up for a contested shot at the hoop vs. Phoenix.

We knew Young with his defensive agility and developing shooting range was versatile, but perhaps not like this. Young's mother died of breast cancer in 2014. He always promised her he'd finish his college degree, and recently added his master's from online courses.

He says his first investment was as a rookie with the 76ers in 2007-08 in a strip mall.

"No brainer deal," recalls Young. "All the leases were signed by tenants. A main investor was secured. Collect residuals and wait for appreciation value and sell."

How come I didn't think of that?

"Still collecting residual checks," Young said. "Then I started dabbling more and four or five years later got into the tech stuff and the startup game and things like that. I'm just motivated by business in general."

Though this isn't some kid—19 when he started in the NBA— who all of a sudden came into some money and started playing Monopoly for real. Young has a professional business manager who is an MIT graduate and investment analyst staffers. They analyze target companies over months for potential investments.

"We'll look at five we want to attack that make the most sense, the broad late stage opportunities, growth stage opportunities, early stage opportunities and try to be very diverse on what we do," said Young.

Young said he doesn't promote to teammates, but explains his process if they are interested. "I'll give them a sense of what they could be doing," he says. "The thing is you want to have something you can dive into once you walk away from the game because once the ball stops bouncing you don't want to start to start figuring out what you want to do. You want to already know what you want to do."

Back on the basketball court is the immediate hope, says Young. But first there's some numbers to crunch that he hopes is not long division.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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