Back in the day, guard Derek Fisher was a key role player for the dynastic Los Angeles Lakers. He teamed up with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt during two separate stints with them, and his timely 3-point shooting, leadership and steady hand were a big part of the Lakers’ five NBA championships from 2000 to 2010.

Today, after coaching stints with the New York Knicks and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, Fisher is an analyst for Lakers games on Los Angeles-based Spectrum SportsNet. In addition, he is the head coach of Crespi Carmelite High School in the San Fernando Valley.

But away from basketball, Fisher was also been busy. He and his wife Gloria Govan, an actress and former reality TV star, have gotten involved in the cannabis industry, first with RLNTLSS Brands and now as the General Partner of Alta II, which lends capital to companies within the cannabis space.

An athlete or celebrity getting involved in the sale or production of cannabis would’ve been very controversial just a decade ago. But the drug is now legal for recreational use in 23 states and at least allowed for medicinal use in most states, as attitudes regarding it have greatly improved.

In an exclusive interview with Justin Quinn of USA Today, Fisher and Govan talked about their involvement in this burgeoning industry, as well as some basketball-related topics.

LeBron Wire: I want to start with Gloria, with your role and founder role as founder of relentless brands.

Govan: Being an entrepreneur, I think really has a lot of similarities with being a mom and managing a household. We’re a blended family and we have five kids and a dog who’s nuts. So we are constantly having to lean on one another to go, “Okay, you got the kids, I got the kids, okay, who’s making dinner? Did you pick up the groceries?” It’s a constant flow.

And I think that lens, it’s really brought that type of skill into being an entrepreneur because while building a company, I have to wear a lot of hats. I was just saying, sometimes I’m the CEO. And other times, I am literally the janitor, and everything in between, we party planning, identifying brands. And what I really love about relentless is that it’s, I call it the picks and shovels of the industry, it’s very 360, although we are vertically integrated, and we own our own licenses. We also help identify brands, market brands, create elevated events, because we can’t do certain things within the industry, we can’t advertise, we can’t market, especially not on radio, Social Media, TV, so we’ve had to become creative. So, really creating different events, different opportunities to highlight and showcase the different brands that we have. We work with Whoopi Goldberg and Paul Pierce and Gary Payton. … We’re working with Bill Bellamy and Tiffany Haddish. But Relentless is a brand and a company that people come to when they want to develop their own strain their own merchandise, especially within the industry. So we really lend those services really well, and help managing brick and mortars, cultivation sites, compliance things of that nature.

LW: You got into this, as I understand it, because of your mother’s breast cancer diagnosis. … Could you tell me more about how you got to hear from there?

Govan: Absolutely, and I’ve actually been in the space about 10 years. And it was, you know, because of my mom’s diagnoses. When she was first diagnosed, she did the chemo and radiation, but when it came, when her breast cancer came back, she physically could not do any more chemo and radiation. So, at that point, it was a very difficult crossroad between experiments, testing, alternative medicine or not. And she’s a fighter, she’s a fighter all day. So we chose the latter. I certainly contribute that research and those experiments to her recovery and it was interesting.

Being with Derek, obviously, being a huge athlete and a competitor, cannabis has never necessarily been in his sphere like that, so I’ve actually enjoyed educating even him on the industry in general, the different compliance, just the space and how much it’s developed. We’ve been together almost 10 years. So he is certainly seeing my journey from it being non-traditional to licensed. And I think that was a big adjustment for us because 10 years ago, cannabis was not where it is today. … It’s been really cool to see Derek get behind me. I think he’s starting to enjoy the development as well — just seeing where I’ve gone and where the company itself has really become today and where it’s going.

LW: So, for the uneducated on the topic, give us a little bit of understanding as to why you’re helping to professionalize, shall we say the industry in the way that you are. It’s so important given, even now, the stigmas and other hurdles you guys have to help people get over.

Govan: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It’s really about changing the traditional stigmas in the industry. Being a professional, a functioning professional, a mom, there’s so many similar, amazing people that really benefit from this plant. I think, for me, that’s been a really heavy point to drive.

A lot of these traditionally systematic rumors, bogus facts, so many crazy things that they’ve said about cannabis in general, it really makes me sad to see, and it’s really frustrating. I feel like, if I have an opportunity that I do to be impactful, and really be a part of changing what that looks like, then I want to do that. I really want to be a part of that story changing and creating a new narrative, because for me, I know, personally, it’s been a miracle, and I want people to understand that.

LW: So another thing that really stood out to me was how you really work to include people of color in this industry. So I know why, but maybe you could tell our audience why that’s so important.

Govan: Going back to like it being historically and traditionally stigmatized on people, black people, brown people, especially underserved communities, the industry itself has been built on the backs of those who are still in jail, that are affected by the war against drugs. And I think it’s important to give us an opportunity. I speak directly because I’m a minority, I’m a woman. I know people that have been affected and are still in jail for small things, like selling weed on the corner. And now, it’s almost a trillion-dollar industry. And I just don’t think that that’s fair. I’m in a position, especially with Alta funds being a general partner there, and giving people an opportunity to be impactful to help them build generational wealth, to change their narrative and their stories. If I can be a part of that, that alone is enough for me.

LW: I want to ask you (Fisher), beyond being supportive, what is your role?

Fisher: I think supportive sums it up really well. And then within the support, it’s managing or wearing different hats yourself. Some of it could be support, in terms of just conversation and discussions and idea sharing. It could be support in terms of, providing some level of awareness to Gloria or to our partners, about a project or initiative that they’re working on that someone from an outside perspective, so to speak. … Some of it could just be at home when Gloria needs to just not talk for a while. Because when you’re running companies and building businesses and that leadership role, 24 hours a day, for seven days a week, at some point, you need to find some time to take care of yourself or herself. Which means she needs to be able to kind of take a step back, let go of the wheel, let someone else lead. And that could just be reminding her to not get up and take the kids to school in the morning, and to try to steal that extra 30 or 40 minutes of sleep so that she can continue to be productive in her day, week, month.

So I think supportive definitely has a bunch of different lanes that it can go down, and it has to mirror that entrepreneurial spirit. You could wear one hat on one day in a completely different hat the next day, and it’s still all falls under that roof of just wanting to support your mate and your partner, not just in business, but in life as well.

LW: What made you decide to coach after being a player?

Fisher: It allows me to still be intimately connected to the game of basketball. It’s hard to imagine completing my playing career, and then just kind of going off into the sunset to do something else not basketball-related. So coaching allows me to reinvest the resources that basketball provided me. I get to reinvest that into other people and into the game, and now,  specifically into our own three boys. It’s just such a rare opportunity and experience to have and I think that’s one of the reasons that coaching was attractive to me. I felt like there was more that I can give the game of basketball that had given me so much. I just don’t know, how life would look, had I chosen to do something else.

LW: So you draw on your considerable professional NBA experience in the role of coaching at any level. During that time, you had the opportunity to play against several players who were former teammates. In particular, for me, one that stood out was Shaquille O’Neal. What was it like? You’re going to war with him in the Lakers uniform and then suddenly he’s your opponent?

Fisher: When Shaq was traded from the Lakers, went to Miami, helped build the championship foundation of that 2006 title team — Shaq was traded in ’04, I opted out of my contract sign with the Golden State Warriors in ’04, and so Golden State and Miami are almost like literally opposite ends of the map. And to be honest, I don’t even remember playing against Shaq those few years — the two years I was in Golden State and then one year in Utah. I remember playing against Kobe and feeling sorry [for him]. I saw Kobe struggle with those teams between ’04 and ’07 — it was rough. And I felt bad for [him] — I saw he always had a fire about him that he couldn’t put out. And I saw that fire, soften or dampen during those three years. … One thing I can tell you is for anybody that’s ever played against Shaq — and I’m glad I didn’t play the center position, it is not fun, it’s not fun man. But he is one of the greatest human beings on the planet. He just makes people laugh. And even though he’s not human in size, he really is very human when you get a chance to be around him. And I think that’s why he’s been able to do so well in his life and career post basketball.

LW: You think there’s a good chance that they (the Lakers and Boston Celtics) can actually meet in the finals? I do.

Fisher: I hope so. I think the NBA could use it. The individual storylines are great. I don’t think talent is the question in the league anymore. But people are really looking for genuine rivalries. Sportsmanship is cool, but NBA fans do want to see some dislike, and they want to see guys that are making the amount of money that these guys are making really appear at least to care more about the winning part than the money part. And rivalries are how that starts to live itself out. You don’t necessarily want to always see guys hugging it out after the game. … But when you think about the Warriors-Kings kind of thing starting to bubble and develop because of the playoff matchup, I just think that the league would benefit from a Laker-Celtics finals matchup again, while definitely not being surprised if two other teams make it to the finals. I just think that the league is really it’s top-heavy in some sets, but you also have four to five teams in each conference that could break through every year. You think the Miami Heat are done, they figure out a way to get to the finals. Obviously the Bucks are a real threat. I think the Sixers are going to be better than people think they are, and then the Celtics are right there. And then in the West, it’s, you know, imagine all of those teams are healthy. Imagine what that looks like.

 Former Lakers guard Derek Fisher and his wife Gloria Govan talked about their new business ventures, as well as some basketball.  Read More