Eleven-time NBA All-Star Allen Iverson has just announced a new multi-year partnership with Viola, a cannabis company run by Al Harrington, another basketball legend who spent 16 seasons on the court.
Harrington and Iverson started their relationship on opposing teams, facing off 25 times over the course of their careers. But this March, Harrington reached out to Iverson and invited him to tour Viola's cultivation facility in Detroit. Harrington stressed that his company was focused on boosting minority participation and ownership in the cannabis industry, and his commitment inspired Iverson to get on board.
"I've had a lot of people approach me with business opportunities, but this one with Al was different," said Iverson in a press release. "After seeing how devoted he is to this business, and him educating me on how beneficial the plant is, it just felt right. I'm excited to be a part of it. Together, we're about to change the game."
This fall, Viola will debut The Iverson Collection, a selection of hand-picked cannabis cultivars selected by Iverson. The first of these strains will launch in California this October, and more strains will eventually be debuted in other markets. In addition to California, Viola also operates in Colorado, Michigan, and Oregon, and hopes to expand to Canada in the near future.
"In the same way Allen impacted the culture, we're going to continue to impact the cannabis industry," Harrington said in a statement. "We're going to keep pushing boundaries. I'm honored to have Allen on board. We want to continue to inspire others and encourage people of color to participate in the cannabis space."
The path from the NBA to the cannabis industry is becoming increasingly well-traveled. Isiah Thomas, who retired from pro basketball in 1994, became the CEO of a major Colombian cannabis producer last year, and dozens of other players have partnered with existing companies to launch their own brands. Old-school legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson has even gotten in on the game, announcing a partnership with a CBD wellness company last summer.
And thanks to a recent decision by NBA officials, future star players will be able to sample these new cannabis products without fear of getting kicked off the team. Last June, the NBA announced that while it would continue testing for performance-enhancing drugs, it would stop testing players for cannabis. The NBA was one of the first major US sporting associations to begin relaxing its restrictions against weed, but other major sports leagues are following suit.
Unfortunately, the US Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee are still way behind the times. Sha'Carri Richardson was just famously banned from competing in the Tokyo Olympics after she tested positive for weed, but media uproar over this idiotic ban will likely convince sporting officials to do away with cannabis testing for good.