Don Nelson is the Most Extreme of Sports Cannabis Guys


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“I’ve been smoking some pot,” Nelson said, eliciting a ton of laughter from the room of reporters. “But I never smoked when I played or coached, so it’s new to me.” It’s been just over a decade since “Nellie” last coached the Warriors, but he’s as relevant as ever today. Nelson revealed a couple years ago that he grows marijuana (as well as coffee and flowers) on his farm in Maui, but his crops are not for sale.

Instead it’s for his own personal use, medicinal purposes for a conditions he did not specify. In terms of CBD and hemp flowers you can buy online, you can check out PureHempFarms which is located in Oregon. They offer edibles, vapes and more, which are all the rage these days. The further legalized cannabis becomes, the more fully mainstreamed the good weed becomes. That is most certainly happening in the world of sports.

Just last week, we had an exclusive with Ryne Sandberg, at the local dispensary he’s working with. He said legality had everything to do with his discovering weed late in life. The Chicago legend is far from the first name you’d expect to get involved in the industry that surrounds this particular plant. Ditto for Carson Palmer, who we profiled last fall, as he found in CBD some healing powers to alleviate his old aches and pains.

When you were sacked as much as Palmer was during his extensive NFL career, you’re going to need some pain relievers. But it’s Don Nelson who is very much the sports weed guy of all sports weed guys. He retired as the NBA’s winningest coach, leading four teams over his 30-year career, where he was a major innovator.

He pioneered the concept of a point forward, led the way for bigs to shoot 3s and brought small ball to the Association long before it became commonplace. He’s best known however, for his time with Golden State, where he achieved 422 victories, many of which came during the famous RUN TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin) era.

While wasn’t a part of the GSW dynasty, he was extremely important towards laying down the foundation for it. Don Nelson drafted Stephen Curry in 2009, and sowed the seeds, at the grassroots level, for the championships that would later bloom en masse. (Sorry for all these terrible puns)

“You’ve got to treat it like a baby,” Nelson, now in his 80s, said to Bryant Gumbel of his plants while appearing on HBO Real Sports in 2019. “You’ve got to water them. You’ve got to have music for them. You’ve got to bless them. It’s a whole process, I’m telling you.”

We don’t doubt it, not for one moment.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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