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Kobe Bryant leads $15M investment round for The Players' Tribune

Kobe Bryant's putting his money on The Players' Tribune.

Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The offseason may be over with opening night in the NBA finally here, but Kobe Bryant hit a buzzer-beater to expand on his media portfolio before tip-off. The Players' Tribune went through its "Series B" round of financing, totaling $15 million in investments. Leading all athletes in investments was Bryant, the publication announced in a press release.

The Derek-Jeter created publication emerged as a force immediately, providing a platform for athletes to speak. They've created original writing and video, also serving as a stage for players to make announcements. Kevin Love's decision to bypass meeting with teams for free agency and re-join the Cleveland Cavaliers is just one example of how it's been used as an outlet.

Kobe adds another bullet point to his off-court resume as he joins New Enterprise Associates to further the development of The Players' Tribune. Bryant released his first feature firm, Kobe Bryant's Muse, and is expected to continue producing video content after signing a massive deal with Alibaba to distribute more original content in China. Kobe also continues to build up the BodyArmor brand.

Jeter has eyed Kobe's involvement from the start, and sounds excited to work with the Mamba, even if it's far behind the scenes. Anthony DiMoro of Forbes had an opportunity to speak with both champions about coming together, and here's a sample of what Derek had to say:

"I asked Kobe to get involved from the beginning and contribute content. And later, after having a full understanding of what we were doing, he wanted to get more involved in the business. Besides being a phenomenal athlete, mentor and leader on the court, he's a respected voice and figure in the global sports community. He's a great connector, a savvy businessman, and a successful investor. Who wouldn't want him on their team?"

And a bit from Kobe, via DiMoro's interview:

"There are three areas that pique my interest: media, technology and storytelling. The Players' Tribune is the perfect intersection of those personal passions" Bryant said. "Through my investment company, we look to help grow media and tech companies that challenge their industries. The Players' Tribune disrupted the status quo by giving a platform to athletes.

I believe we are at the start of a revolution when it comes to people owning their stories and using them to build their businesses. The Players' Tribune is just the beginning and I wanted to be a part of what Derek and his team have started to build."

Here's the full press release, via The Players' Tribune:

NEW YORK - October 27, 2015 - The Players' Tribune (TPT) today announced the successful close of its Series B financing totaling $15 million. Kobe Bryant, who has been involved with TPT since December, has made a significant investment in the platform and leads all athletes in the round. Through his investment firm, Bryant joins New Enterprise Associates (NEA), the world's largest venture capital firm, who as previously announced, led the round. Further support for the platform comes from dozens of other professional athletes, including athletes represented by GenTrust, an investment management company that provides an array of investment solutions to institutional and high net worth clients, and existing investors, including Thomas Tull of Legendary Entertainment.

After a Series B first close in the amount of $9.5 million, another $5.5 million in equities was made available to additional investors, including athletes and influencers in the sports community. The investments will allow the one-year-old platform to broaden and further develop its multimedia editorial offerings, including written pieces, photography, podcasts and The Players' Tribune Radio. It will also help to significantly expand the site's video content, including popular series such as "Players' POV," "Singular Focus" and "1440."

"Through The Players' Tribune, Derek and his team have built something special. A platform for athletes to own their own stories and present them to fans is an extremely powerful tool," says Bryant. "Through this investment and my personal creative involvement, I look forward to joining the vision and helping the team push boundaries in content creation and technology."

"Kobe and I have a lot more in common than our desire to win on the field or court," says Jeter, founding publisher of The Players' Tribune. "We share a common vision for adding another element to the the sports media landscape and strengthening the relationship between fans and athletes. He's the perfect teammate for me and for the entire Tribune team."

"Our mission at The Players' Tribune is to build an athlete community, and we are excited to have so many athletes as strategic investors in the company," says Jon Sakoda, general partner at NEA. "In just one year, The Tribune has grown to over 350 athlete contributors — it's become more than a sports media company, it's become a movement."

"The Players' Tribune has helped empower athletes to express themselves on their own terms," says Jaymee Messler, president of The Players' Tribune. "Kobe has deep-rooted relationships and a major interest in storytelling and technology. Partnering with him and NEA will help us continue to enhance and broaden our content offerings."

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