Al Harrington made more than $90 million in an NBA career that lasted 16 seasons.
The star out of St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, who became a first-round pick of the Pacers and spent parts of two seasons with the Knicks, instead of easing into retirement has embarked on a unique next chapter.
And it might make him even more money than basketball did.
Harrington, 39, has been in the cannabis game for nearly a decade and now runs Harrington Wellness, a California-based company that makes Cannabinoids, as chronicled by the Indianapolis Star.
Harrington underwent 14 surgeries as a player, which is how he said he discovered the benefits of cannabis. And a visit from his grandmother in 2011 while Harrington played in Denver — where medical marijuana was legal at the time — also helped.
Harrington’s grandmother, Viola, suffered from glaucoma and other health issues, and Harrington had learned how cannabis could help relieve some symptoms.
After some resistance, his grandmother took his advice and found immediate results.
Harrington invested $5 million in a cannabis company, along with his cousin — and since Harrington was still an an active NBA player, he made the investment in his cousin’s name to conceal his identity and avoid scrutiny from the league.
Harrington eventually named his brand after Viola and is confident its usage will be permitted by athletes in the not-too-distant future.
“I firmly believe that [medical marijuana] will be allowed in one of these major sports leagues in the next two years,” Harrington told the Star.
“Leagues say health and safety is first,” Harrington said. “If that’s the case, stop prescribing opioids and giving prescription pills and shooting these NFL players up to be able to go compete. They walk away from the game and their quality of life [expletive] sucks and if cannabis can help them and give them quality of life, they should look into it.”
He employs more than 70 people in his company in California, Colorado, Michigan and Oregon, and the 6-foot-9 Harrington has tried his hand at planting some marijuana.
He added it is an “attainable goal” to see his company listed at $1 a billion valuation — referring to what it would be worth on the open market if he put it up for sale.
But Harrington insisted his motives aren’t purely financial.
“At the end of the day — and I want you to put this in there, because it’s the truth — I’m not doing it for the money,” Harrington told the paper. “Money will come and go, but I’m more focused on service and products and patients. If we take care of them, the money will be there.”
And he reiterated the inevitability of the sports world embracing it.
“Oh, it’s coming,” Harrington said of legalized CBDs in pro sports. “Maybe topical, but it’s coming. I understand no athlete should smoke — I understand people thinking that. But at the end of the day, it’s not the truth. With technology today there’s so many delivery systems to get the CBD into your body, it doesn’t have to be consumed from smoking. That’s one of the stigmas we talk about, educating people. The same medicine a guy can get from smoking, he can get from an edible or a topical.”