Uninterrupted Conversation: Maverick Carter And LeBron James Get The Stars To Tell Stories
NBA icon LeBron James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter continue to make news with their media company Uninterrupted.
And it all started with a letter. In 2014, James wrote an open letter to the readers of Sports Illustrated to talk about his move from the Miami Heat back to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“He just wanted to really be able to get his feelings and thoughts out without being peppered with a thousand questions about why he was doing what he was doing,” Carter told Sports Pro Media. “He just wanted to express it and get it out once and for all.”
This turned out to be the beginning of a desire to give a platform for others to share and to communicate.
“Literally, based off that letter we decided that there was no place for athletes to really express themselves in this way,” Carter said.
The pair went on to launch a production company called SpringHill Entertainment. They also started recording a series of video testimonials for publication in December 2014. Among those they interviewed were NFL star Rob Gronkowski, then UFC champion Ronda Rousey and Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green among those joining James in front of the camera. The next year, their venture, now called Uninterrupted, had inked a deal for $15.8 million in funding from Warner Bros and Turner Sports to develop a fully-fledged multimedia offering.
One of the successful Uninterrupted programs is Carter’s own interview series, “Kneading Dough,” launched in 2017 and now in its third season. For it, Carter has interviewed athletes ranging from James to Serena Williams, Lindsey Vonn and Simone Biles about how they have coped with their financial obligations, and how they think about money and their futures. There is also an accompanying podcast hosted by former NFL player Andrew Hawkins.
“Kneading Dough has really taken on a life of its own and become a brand and a franchise of its own,” Carter said. “It’s all about empowering athletes and, more importantly, empowering the consumers and the viewers to really get a better grasp and understanding.”
“Uninterrupted was founded on the basic belief that athletes should have the ability to share their own stories, uninterrupted,” said Devin Johnson, president and chief operating officer of Uninterrupted. He joined the company in July 2016. “Everything we do flows from the idea that we want to give athletes a platform that is authentically their own and to empower them to be ‘more than’.
“To be ‘more than an athlete’ is different for each person, but ultimately we are all humans and much more than our day jobs. We are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, activists, investors, entrepreneurs, artists, etc. Uninterrupted is here to provide a platform for that which lies beyond the field of play.”
For one thing, finding a place in that market has meant forging a distinctive identity. ‘More than an athlete’, Carter said, was the insight that could turn Uninterrupted into something that went beyond an emerging digital media company.
“When we landed on our version of ‘just do it’, our version of ‘think different’, which is ‘more than an athlete’, that’s when we really established who we are and established ourselves as a brand that matters in this space and that athletes know us as.”
He added: “We were always thinking of ourselves as a media company and then we realized that we meant much more than just a company that delivered media. We were actually a brand. We realized that we were a media company that’s become a brand. We were an athlete empowerment brand.”
Uninterrupted has been growing ever since it was launched. “Uninterrupted now works with dozens of athletes – from other current and former NBA stars such as James Harden and Steve Nash to the likes of sprinter Alyson Felix and Chelsea soccer player Christian Pulisic – and positions them as ‘producers and executive producers of the projects that we make.’ Its output has grown increasingly diverse to include original video series and documentaries as well as podcasts,” Sports Pro Media reported.
“We’re globally distributed and we go to distribution partners that really suit the project,” Carter said. “We have a show on HBO. We have three or four projects with Netflix. We have our own owned and operated channels on social and our website.”
The brand has also gone international and has continued to attract celebrities, such as tennis star Naomi Osaka, French soccer sensation Kylian Mbappe, and Mexican boxing icon Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
“We partnered with Drake to launch in Canada, and Uninterrupted Canada is now creating authentic athlete storytelling, uniquely tied to Canadian sport and culture,” Johnson added. “They have great projects in the works with players like Toronto Raptors star Serge Ibaka and Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette and will continue to build on that content slate.
“We are incredibly excited about our partnerships in Europe, including with Liverpool FC as well as Studio 99, David Beckham’s new production company, and look forward to continuing that expansion into soccer and internationally.”