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Beyond the Sporting Life

For pro athletes, entrepreneurial endeavors are a natural play.

This story appears in the August 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Just as New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is entering the business realm and helping shore up the Crescent City's post-Katrina recovery, former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Dave is helping drive Motown's rebirth--and his approach is even more hands-on: Last November, Bing (who launched his own automotive product supply firm after retiring from pro basketball) was elected as mayor of Detroit, vowing to rejuvenate the crumbling local economy by simplifying licensing and permits for new businesses.

Few athletes are able to achieve the levels of influence as Brees or Bing, but a growing number of pros is following an entrepreneurial path--and not always after their playing days end, either.

Mark Schlereth

  • NFL offensive lineman (1989-2000); won three rings (one with the , two with the Denver Broncos).
  • Played recurring role of Detective Roc Hoover on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light.
  • Co-founded Mark Schlereth's Stinkin' Good Green Chile sauce, available in hot (Red Zone Blitz), medium (Opening Kickoff) and mild (Kickers Only).

Charles Oakley

  • NBA power forward (1985-2004) for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets.
  • Hosts online cooking show Café Oakley.
  • Co-owns Oakley's Car Wash, with locations in Brooklyn and Yonkers, N.Y. Oakley's guarantees that if your car gets dirty within 48 hours, it'll give it another wash.

Baron Davis

  • NBA guard (1999-present, now with Los Angeles Clippers).
  • Third overall pick in 1999 NBA draft.
  • Co-founded production company Verso Entertainment with high school friend Cash Warren, husband of actress Jessica Alba.

Venus Williams

  • Holds 19 Grand Slam titles in professional tennis (tied for 12th on all-time list and second among active players, behind younger sister Serena).
  • Career prize money as of May: $26,761,235--second all-time high among female athletes.
  • Founded V Starr, a commercial and residential interior design firm based in Jupiter, Fla., in 2002.

Jordan Palmer

  • NFL quarterback (2007-present, now with Cincinnati Bengals).
  • Career statistics as of 2009 NFL season: 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 41 passing yards.
  • Co-founder of mobile applications firm Rock Software, developer of RunPee (an app alerting moviegoers when they can safely go to the restroom without missing a key plot development).

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