Four-time Grand Slam Tennis Champion, Naomi Osaka, recently announced she was taking her career into her hands once again. Leaving the agency IMG, Osaka shared her future plans involve launching her own sports agency, Evolve.
always room 🏀🥂 https://t.co/Yiu0Mdx4I2— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 12, 2022
Not too long after news broke, NBA Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving tweeted at the young sports entrepreneur, asking if she had any room at Evolve for him.
“yall got room over at your agency for hoopers. Just inquiring,” Irving tweeted Osaka.
Osaka replied saying, “always room.”
Irving would be the ideal client for Evolve as he stood his ground for the past two years, refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccination which resulted in significant fines, a possible drop from the Brooklyn Nets, and sitting out of home games.
Last year, he expressed on Instagram Live that he wasn’t going to retire despite the consequences.
Kyrie Irving address his stance on not getting the vaccine on IG Live: “It’s about choosing what’s best for you. You think I really want to lose money? You think I really want to give up on my dream to go after a championship? You think I really just want to give up my job?” pic.twitter.com/cYHCWGbnCo
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 14, 2021
“I am doing what’s best for me. I know the consequences here, and if it means that I’m judged and demonized for that, that’s just what it is,” Irving said. “That’s the role I play, but I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream just over this mandate.”
If the 30-year-old leaves his agency, he and Osaka would not be the first athletes to break free of their agencies to start an anew. Jack Nicklaus left IMG to launch Golden Bear, and LeBron James founded LRMR for marketing.
Osaka is partnering on Evolve with her long-time agent, Stuart Duguid– both will have an equity share with no outside investors.
Duguid shared that the agency will be a small boutique-like and the idea behind it came about during Osaka’s competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Heavily influeced by NBA legends, Osaka and Duguid came up with Evolve.
“We were discussing the business models of some of her mentors like Kobe and LeBron. We thought – why has no transcendent female athlete done that yet,” Duguid said. “It’s athlete-driven and focused on big picture brand building rather than quick checks with a commission attached.”
The company’s name seems fitting–in 2020, Osaka evolved her platform to bring awareness to racial inequality, police brutality, and mental health.
“I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional,” Osaka said in an email to Sportico. “Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way,” she said.
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Osaka told Sportico that Duguid and herself plan to take the same approach to grow the sports agency authentically as she did with her tennis career.
“I’m excited to start this with my business partner Stuart and our plan is to use the same approach we took in building my businesses authentically and strategically as a vision for this company,” Osaka told Sportico. “I strongly believe in the power athletes have to use our platforms to drive meaningful business,” she said.
She added that she hopes Evolve will “be at the forefront of breaking down the barriers that still exist in sports and broader culture.”
Duguid told Sportico that their goal is to stay close-knit and not expand into a large firm.
— Sportico (@Sportico) May 11, 2022
“We’ve moved away a bit from traditional endorsements and are focused more on true equity partnerships where we can add value, along with creating our own companies at the same time,” Duguid said to Sportico. “This gives a platform to take bigger swings.”
There is no set date on when Evolve will start taking on clients.