Sports

Former Mav-turned-entrepreneur Jamal Mashburn is now the latest prominent sports figure to publicly advocate cannabis use

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Jamal Mashburn was 20 years old, having left the University of Kentucky after his junior year, when the Mavericks made him the No. 4 pick of the 1994 draft. To say he’s flourished in adulthood is like saying he was an OK basketball player.

And make no mistake, the 6-foot-8 Mashburn had far more than an OK NBA career, though Mavericks fans wish more of it had occurred in Dallas rather than Miami, then Charlotte and New Orleans, where during the 2002-03 season he was an All-Star and third-team All-NBA.

Basketball, though, was a mere precursor to an entrepreneurial career that currently has Mashburn as a stakeholder in more than 100 franchises, including Outback Steakhouses, Papa John’s Pizzas and Lexus and

And now, officially as of today, as a board of directors advisor to Revolution, a Chicago-based company that scientifically designs, grows, packages and sells legal cannabis – also known as marijuana.

“One of the things that I’ve always done is my research on industries and the players within the industry,” Mashburn, 46, told The News in a phone interview. “I’ve been researching this sector for, I want to say, five-to-seven years.”

Mashburn becomes the latest of roughly two-dozen prominent current and former athletes to publicly advocate cannabis use. Others include former NFL players Ricky Williams, Kyle Turley, Eugene Monroe, Nate Jackson and Eben Britton; former NBA player Clifford Robinson; former cyclists Floyd Landis and Andrew Talansky; and swimmer Amy Van Dyken.

Although cannabis has been legalized and-or decriminalized in all but nine U.S. states, Mashburn understands that a significant number of people, including in Dallas, won’t approve of his decision to take an active advisory role at Revolution, which in addition to Illinois operates in Florida and Arkansas and plans to expand to other states.

“Throughout my business career and athletic career, some of the choices I’ve made, people haven’t looked at favorably,” Mashburn said. “The first being, choosing the University of Kentucky when we were on probation. That wasn’t a favorable look when I came out of New York City. And also retiring from the NBA while still being a productive player. People didn’t look at that as favorable.”

Mashburn averaged 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists during his 12 NBA seasons, including a 20.8-point average in his final season, 2003-04. He joined Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Larry Bird, Drazen Petrovic and Reggie Lewis to average 20 or more points in their final NBA season.

“So I’ve always gone against the grain and tried to evolve the conversation,” Mashburn said. “I think cannabis has a stigma attached to it. For some people it’s negative, and for other people the conversation has evolved into medical use; and for some even recreational use. And I like to participate in the conversation

“It doesn’t bother me one iota if (people think) it’s something negative because I know the people that could be helped from this. I’ve witnessed my mom, who had cancer and is in remission now and some of the drugs she was on that doctors prescribed to her, including opioids, and I know how that impacted her.

“And I know other people who have gone through cancer treatment and utilized marijuana and done very well. So I think it’s a continuous conversation, figuring out where you sit on the issue, but I think for most of the country people are evolving in their thought process and looking at it as more of a helping agent than a hinder.”

Revolution CEO Mark de Souza strategically chose Mashburn to advise the company, not merely because he’s a well-known former athlete, but because of his expertise in expansion and corporate marketing.

And, according to de Souza, Mashburn will play a significant role in helping Revolution specifically and the cannabis industry in general on social equity issues. According to a Marijuana Business Daily survey, only 17% of cannabis industry executives are minorities.

“Jamal has always led his businesses with an eye towards innovation, which is key as Revolution expands to new markets,” Revolution chairman Tony Hunter stated Thursday in a news release.

Mashburn, the entrepreneur, recognizes that Mashburn, the former pro athlete, brings visibility and voice to an evolving issue, as have Heisman Trophy winner Williams and others.

“I think athletes will always be on the forefront of a lot of different conversations,” Mashburn said. “I don’t think we can necessarily say they are ‘dumb jocks’ anymore — even though there are some; that’s just a part of society itself.

“I think the athlete conversation propels the conversation. It gives a different perspective that most people don’t have, because most people aren’t running up and down a field for their compensation.”

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