The Indiana Pacers tipped off their season Wednesday night with Malcolm Brogdon leading the offense, two days after the 28-year-old point guard signed a two-year, $45 million contract extension that will tie him to the club through the 2024-25 season. The 2016-17 Rookie of the Year already has plans for the new windfall.
“Life is bigger than basketball. Life is bigger than any job,” Brogdon said in a phone interview last month. “It is important, especially for NBA players, to figure out what your passion is, and then how you are going to use that to help other people after your career is over.”
The NBA and its stars have been front-and-center promoting social causes. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and dozens of other players have used their vast platforms and resources to address a host of issues, from racial and criminal injustices to voting rights, education inequalities to food insecurity.
Brogdon has taken a unique approach, via his portfolio: 100% of the point guard’s financial investments are pledged to active causes. They include “impact” companies on the private market side or ESG ones, which consider a company’s environmental, social and governance practices—alongside traditional financial metrics—on the public side. Academic research has shown that investment returns on these assets are comparable to traditional investing.
“It is putting my money where my mouth is and putting my money to good use,” Brogdon said. “Impact investing is one of the best ways to do that. You can invest your money to get great returns and also help other people.”
Socially responsible investment (SRI) strategies, which avoid investments based on certain personal beliefs, have been popular for decades, but impact investing, which targets positive change, has only recently gained significant traction. Investments are expected to address at least one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), like quality education, no poverty and gender equality. The investment category has exploded over the past decade and reached $715 billion in assets last year, according to the Global Impact Investing Network.
Brogdon’s roots in impact investing trace back to childhood family trips to Ghana and Malawi that opened his eyes to the outside world. The Atlanta native grew to see education as a means to help others. His parents and two older brothers all have advanced degrees, three law and one doctorate. Malcolm added to the family’s graduate diploma haul, earning a master’s in public policy during a fifth year at the University of Virginia. “Shaping policies and laws is the biggest way that you can impact people, especially minorities that don’t have a voice,” he said.
Brogdon made history with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2017, as the first second-round draft pick to win Rookie of the Year since the common draft era, which started in 1966. He added his name to the record books two seasons later as just the eighth player in NBA history with a 50-40-90 season, denoting percentage success rate for field goals, three-pointers and free throws. He signed as a free agent with the Pacers in 2019.
He launched his foundation last year to focus on education and clean water, which was the topic of his master’s thesis. The water initiative, Hoops4Humanity, completed its first well in March at a school in Tanzania and has six more wells in development. It continues the work he previously did alongside Chris Long’s Waterboys program. That Hoops2o project initiated by Brogdon constructed 11 wells in East Africa over three years. Brogdon spent eight days in the region this summer.
It was after meeting UBS private wealth advisor Mark Wilkins in early 2020 that Brogdon recognized the profound impact his financial investments could also have. Wilkins did not have any celebrity clients but laid out the double bottom line for Brogdon, where both financial and social returns are factored into investments.
Brogdon made seven-figure commitments to TPG’s private equity impact initiative, The Rise Fund, as well as Rethink Impact’s venture capital impact fund. Rethink, founded in 2016 by Jenny Abramson and Heidi Patel, goes a step further with its investments and targets female leaders. Brogdon’s public market investments are in the UBS sustainable equity portfolio and Calvert Global Water Fund.
His impact commitments are set to jump moving forward. As a second-round draft pick, Brogdon’s three-year rookie contract amounted to just $3.8 million in total. His Pacers’ deal pushed his salary to $20 million in 2019, and he is owed $89 million through the 2024-25 season, after his extension this week.
Brogdon, who sits on the National Basketball Players Association executive committee, said he’s talked to a handful of NBA players about the role of impact investing, including new NBPA president CJ McCollum. He added, “I want them to know that things that only grow money for yourself are not the only way to invest your money.”