As a player, it’s easy to put Zaza Pachulia in a box. His NBA career fits the journeyman archetype to a tee: 16 seasons, six different teams, a couple of standoffs with opposing franchise players and rebound averages interchangeable with scoring.
But the center—known more for enforcing than finesse—has now secured the two holy grails of post-playing career titles: a front-office consultant gig with the Golden State Warriors and becoming a partner in a business he believes in: the Georgian shoe line Crosty.
But unlike being the face of a high-fashion American sneaker brand, Pachulia’s commitment to getting in the trenches shouldn’t come as a surprise. During his two years with the Warriors, he occasionally sat in on team President Rick Welts’ meetings with corporate sponsors, which he parlayed into summer classes at Harvard, Northwestern and Emory universities in addition to a two-week immersion at the NBA offices in Manhattan.
A proactive opportunity to learn about the business side that Pachulia credits to the Warriors’ top-down culture, “So I asked him [if I could sit in on his meetings]," Pachulia recalls, sitting in a conference room at ONE37pm's office in New York City in early October. "First of all, it's always great to have a boss and CEO and COO as Rick Welts, and it's always great to hear what goes on in those meetings. You can at anytime approach him, talk to him, his door is open. As a player, it's amazing. It’s a privilege.”
Pachulia has fully committed himself to his team. Earning unconditional love from his teammates, colleagues and countrymen has become the defining theme of his adulthood.
There’s no better example of this than the populist surge of All-Star votes for Pachulia in 2016. Without soliciting for himself, his native country of Georgia—population of 3.7 million—campaigned more votes than NBA royalties like Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.
“It was madness. Craziness,” Pachulia said. “Without me saying anything, you know? I didn't say one word. It was like natural, it was very authentic. That's why I was enjoying the process and even though I was thinking I'm not an All-Star-caliber player, I said, ‘Of course, let it be.’"
Ultimately though, Pachulia and Georgia fell short of an All-Star nod that year, but their loyalty for each other materialized following a championship with the Warriors in 2017.
After receiving a seemingly innocent surprise & delight consisting of white sneakers from the Georgian sneaker line Crosty—Zaza loves white sneakers—and a note that read ‘#freedom’, Zaza became infatuated with the brand.
“It's not about the sneakers, it's not about the product or quality, we're not talking about that," Pachulia said. "Just the story. I mean, it was amazing, very inspiring.”
And just like the Warriors returned Pachulia’s commitment and professionalism with a job offer, Pachulia reciprocated the loyalty of Crosty and Georgia by becoming an investor and partner with the brand.
Check out the rest of our interview with the Georgian NBA mogul below, where in addition to both of his new roles, Pachulia discusses the anarchy that ensues after winning a ring and what he learned from failed business ventures in his 20s.