LeBron James’ dream came true in June when he delivered a championship title to the city of Cleveland. Now he’s helping to pay it forward with a new reality show. Executive produced by James and business partner Maverick Carter, Cleveland Hustles (Wednesday, 10 p.m. ET, CNBC) matches four local business leaders with eight Cleveland-area entrepreneurs. Each leader selects a business to invest in and works with the entrepreneur to open a brick-and-mortar store in underserved Cleveland neighborhoods. “We’re giving people an opportunity to live out a dream and giving small-business owners a chance to do what they love to do,” said James, who grew up in nearby Akron.
In June, Vasu Kulkarni was standing in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room, his hands sticky with champagne spray, his ears ringing with screams. The team had just won the NBA championship game, and Kulkarni, CEO of Krossover, was invited in for the trophy presentation. It wasn’t his footwork or his coaching skills that landed him the enviable invite: The Cavs use Krossover’s data analytics tools to study their games to improve performance. “As a kid, I would dream of just being in an NBA locker room,” he says. “But to actually get to touch the championship trophy? It was surreal.”