Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo called 2020 the year of change, and it certainly is for almost all of us out there.
But change truly and abruptly began for the 28-year-old on Jan. 23, 2019, when he ruptured a quad tendon in his right knee and was forced to miss over a calendar year of NBA action. During that time, there was a period of two or three months where Oladipo said he couldn’t really move or do anything as he was rehabbing his knee. So he decided to spend some time focusing on things outside of basketball including investing, which he didn’t plan on going into until late in his career. The Indiana University product had some unplanned time on his hands, so he took some phone calls, met with interesting business leaders and put money in some interesting companies.
One of those most recent ventures is a six-figure investment in avatar company Genies, which has a large list of celebrity endorsers and investors including Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving and Devin Booker on the basketball side, music superstars like Shawn Mendes, Offset and A$AP Rocky and industry and financial power players like CAA and Breyer Capital.
On a Monday phone call, Oladipo spoke at length about how important the concept of communication is to him and how it impacts different relationships from all walks of life. Kids are all drawn to their phones or iPads and different emojis and avatars are now globally ubiquitous, he said, something people of all ages can relate to.
“With my genie, they’re drawn to it because it looks just like me and wears the same clothes I wear,” Oladipo said.
A two-time NBA All-Star, Oladipo said that he’s all about helping people and being passionate about what he loves and that Genies was a natural partnership for him.
“The people who back it are great men, great people, so I think good things are going to happen because of that,” he said. “But also I think it has the ability to touch different crowds, genres, spaces, different people of different ages. So when you have something so unique yet so relatable, I feel like special things happen.”
Jake Becker of Genies’ Avatar Agency and one of the company’s founding members, said that there’s been a huge demand for their product this year in a business and commercial capacity, with high growth and new talent and partnerships resulting from work with the players associations for the NBA, NFL and MLB.
“In a time of chaos and confusion, we provide a safe, streamlined, and revolutionary solution for the world’s largest celebrities and brand’s business challenges while perfectly aligning them with culture and the consumer ecosystem,” Becker said via email. “Vic, being an NBA All-Star, platinum record recording artist and accomplished investor, is a cultural tastemaker, and his investment signifies the need to integrate avatar technology into the social nuances of today’s world as well as shows the opportunity for future athletes off the court.”
The Silver Spring, Maryland native’s investing strategy is not to force anything and find companies and situations he can put more than just his money into. Other investments in his current portfolio include Cholula hot sauce, Airbnb, Beyond Meat, esports company Play One Up, Overtime and real estate holdings.
“It’s not just me giving them my money and letting them handle it,” Oladipo said of his active investing style. “It’s me investing my time, my effort and my heart into something. So I want the best out of it. I like to sit down and talk and see where things are going. I like to be involved. I like to do my research, read writeups, everything about everything. I might not tell anybody, but that’s how I like to move.”
Even when Oladipo didn’t have two good legs and couldn’t perform basketball activities in 2019, he was still in the gym rehabbing to get back on the court for the Pacers. He’d just come off his two All-Star selections and was named All-NBA, All-Defense and Most Improved Player in 2017-2018. It took a ton of effort to get back on the floor on Jan. 29, only for the season to be suspended exactly six weeks later due to the coronavirus pandemic.
So the second overall pick of the 2013 draft had to spend nearly five more months off the court before returning to play in the Orlando bubble on Aug. 1. He didn’t find bubble life that bad, he said, with the stresses of the outside world isolated outside Disney. Oladipo averaged 16 points per game in the six seeding games he played in for Indiana and 17.8 per contest in the team’s first round playoff sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat.
Exactly 18 months and one day after Oladipo’s major injury, he’s still trying to get back to peak performance following a 2019-2020 campaign where he only managed to play in 23 games.
“I’m way stronger than I feel like I was even leaving the bubble,” he said. “Now I’m waking up in the morning feeling better. I remember waking up before the bubble and it was better than even the three months before that. I’m constantly improving and getting better.”
The year of change that is 2020 for Oladipo is also a year of preparation for the final year of his four-year, $85 million contract, one he’s trying to utilize in the most positive way possible.
“It’s a big year for me. I know it’s a huge year, and I know that obviously I’m gonna have to be focused and take things to another level,” Oladipo said. “But my thing is that I’m at my best when my back is against the wall. I always feel like I’m overlooked, underrated. I’ve always been like that my whole life. But right now, it’s like on another scale for me. I’m taking this really, really personally because this next year is a big stepping stone for me in my career. I’m taking it very seriously. And I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to the grind leading up to it.”
And with the NBA not likely returning until 2021, Oladipo’s Pacers are still looking for a new head coach and will probably have to improve their team via trade for next season.
“I’m looking forward to the actual season when it gets here,” he said. “I just know what I have to do. And I’m looking forward to doing so.”
With his investment portfolio growing and the biggest season of his NBA career ahead of him, Oladipo knows that while 2020 has been a year of change and preparation on and off the court, 2021 is the one he’s been working so tirelessly for in his pursuit of excellence.