NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas Shares Path to Being Named CEO of Colombian Cannabis Producer

Jordan Cohn
July 07, 2020 - 3:53 pm
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While Michael Jordan stole the spotlight in ESPN's "The Last Dance" -- and of course he did, as the series was centered around him -- Isiah Thomas played a significant role. His rivalry with Jordan and the greater Pistons-Bulls rivalry of the late 1980s and early 1990s was the focal point of one episode in the 10-part documentary, and countless testimonials of Thomas's exclusion from the Dream Team, Jordan's involvement in that decision, and more angles were covered in subsequent days.

Similary, Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand have stolen the spotlight in terms of NBA player business success -- and of course they have, seeing as Jordan is far and away the richest NBA player of all time, with a net worth of $1.9 billion as of October 2019. But Isiah Thomas also shouldn't be discounted in this light, either.

He helped to found the Toronto Raptors and was one of the co-owners and the first general manager the team ever had back in 1994. The same year, he founded ISIAH International, a holding company with an extensive portfolio. The portfolio includes Isiah Real Estate in Chicago, focusing on affordable housing, Mary's Court, which aims to provide children with healthy, safe, and educational opportunities to grow up in Chicago, and Cheurlin Champagne, an award-winning French champagne producer which Thomas brought to America through Isiah Imports.

But it's his newest venture that caught the eye of Forbes' Javier Hasse. Thomas was recently appointed CEO of the large Colombian hemp and cannabis producer One World Pharma, a role he accepted in order to replace Craig Ellins, the company's founder. Hasse relates Thomas' time and expertise with Cheurlin to his new responsibilities at One World Pharma, as the Hall of Famer's understanding of specialized wine crops that made for the highest quality champagne will carry over into the production of top-tier hemp and cannabis.

It wasn't working in such an important role within the champagne industry that got Thomas interested in cannabis, though. Instead, Thomas told Hasse that family tragedy was the reason he wanted to get into working with cannabis, specifically medical cannabis.

“I had one of my brothers pass away from cancer, then my mother died, and finally my father died from cancer," Thomas said. "And I remember, at the end, all of them were struggling with their appetite. And not eating was hurting them terribly.”

Though doctors suggested utilizing medical cannabis as a way to encourage normal eating and a regular appetite, Thomas says that his mother's perception of the drug -- 'I'm not smoking no reefer!' he recalls her saying -- prevented her from receiving that form of treatment.

Obviously, this changed the Pistons great's perception of the drug and of how other people perceived the drug, and he realized that this wasn't the marijuana that was sold "on the street corner or back alley," but in professional medical settings. He aims to further change the perception of cannabis's effectiveness in the medical world and use his previous experience in the wine industry to, as Hasse says, "produce elite plants from the perfect combination of... patented seeds, soil, and sun."

"Zeke" is worth $100 million today, according to Celebrity Net Worth, and the two-time NBA champion could see that number go up if One World Pharma is a success.

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