Former NBA Champ Dahntay Jones Builds on Hoops Career with Eco-Friendly, Tech-Savvy Pearl Homes
LOS ANGELES -- Dahntay Jones is a top-50 player in NBA history in at least one way: number of teams played for.
Technically, according to Basketball Reference, he’s in a 59-way tie for 41st place on that list, with stints on eight different teams over the course of his 14 pro seasons. That doesn’t include the team that drafted him (the Boston Celtics) or the two D-League (now G League) clubs with which he had stints.
Dahntay never had the single-team staying power of a superstar, even as a first-round pick (No. 20 overall) in the same 2003 draft that produced LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Instead, Dahntay made himself useful to more than a quarter of the Association by dint of his grit, toughness, intelligence and team-first approach.
In return, he won a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, made millions off of basketball, established a network within the hoops world, and built the credibility and confidence he’d need to work as an analyst for NBA TV and FOX Sports. But when it comes to his most daunting (and most passionate) work these days, it’s that literal journey through the league and its landscape that has proved most applicable to his post-playing life.
“I've lived in the Midwest, the South, East Coast, West Coast,” he rattles off to CloseUp360 inside a Starbucks in Beverly Hills. “I have a full perspective just by being a basketball player and being in so many communities, seeing so many different types of people, seeing the needs of all the people around them.”
Dahntay Jones played for eight NBA franchises and two D-League teams during his 14-year pro career. (Anthony Perez)
On the heels of his 25 years in hoops, Dahntay is now the Managing Partner and Vice President of Pearl Homes, a company that specializes in building sustainable smart-home communities by way of LEED-certified residential development. Through state-of-the-art design, the use of solar panels and Sonnen energy storage systems, as well as the integration of products from Google and Nest, Dahntay’s latest venture is aiming to revolutionize housing with “zero-energy-rated” homes that are sustainable, affordable, secure and comfortable.
And though he still loves the game, Dahntay has found firm footing on a new path that, in some respects, he’s been forging for longer than he’s been a pro.
“Basketball's still a passion of mine, don't get me wrong,” he says, “but you can have other passions. You can have other things that you wake up looking forward to.
“Your body gets a little older, it gets a little tired. But my mind is the biggest weapon I have right now, and using that in the most efficient capacity has been my new challenge.”
Dahntay says basketball is "still a passion of mine," but is now using his mind to make headway in the business world. (Courtesy of Pearl Homes)
Dahntay didn’t just play basketball for eight different NBA teams. He also took advantage of off-the-court opportunities in each of the cities he called home as a pro. He lent his efforts to the league’s “Read to Achieve” program, spent time at Boys & Girls Clubs and participated in mentorship programs.
Beyond the league’s community efforts, he created a medical clinic in Brooklyn and started the Dahntay Jones Foundation, which reflected his own interest in technology by building computer labs for kids across the country. He keeps up with trends through his own voracious reading, and has been an early adopter of Tesla cars and Google Home products.
“I've always enjoyed helping people,” he says, “and I feel like if you can get into business to help people, not only will you feel good about yourself and what you're giving back to the world, but you also can make a career out of it and then help more people with your research that you gained from it.”
To that end, Dahntay did everything he could to set himself up for life after basketball while he was still playing, using the resources made available to him and his peers by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Through those two organizations, he took classes in everything from broadcasting and coaching to technology, leadership and real estate, including an internship at the Douglas Elliman real estate company.
Towards the end of his run in the NBA, Dahntay began eyeing a course in business and entertainment at Harvard Business School, run by Professor Anita Elberse. He had seen pro athletes and celebrities, from D-Wade and Chris Paul to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, take part in the class, and wanted to see what it was about for himself.
The problem? The course ran concurrently with the NBA Finals. And as a member of LeBron’s Cavs, Dahntay couldn’t (and wouldn’t) ask out to go back to school.
After Dahntay’s second (and last) Finals run in 2017, he fielded calls from Professor Elberse and the NBA. Both wanted to invite him into the “Crossover Into Business” program, which would pair current and former players with HBS students to learn the ins and outs of business through a course on campus in Cambridge and remote correspondence thereafter.
“I was, like, ‘I'm definitely coming, we've been talking too much for me not to come,’” he recalls.
As the summer of 2017 gave way to fall, Dahntay was in Massachusetts, the leaves changing color as his own career was shifting. He was one of eight NBA players in that inaugural class, alongside Chris Bosh, Caron Butler, Lance Thomas, Wayne Selden, Pat Connaughton, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Copeland.
“That course was helpful in helping me set up and think about how I want my real estate arm of life to be,” Dahntay says. “Did I want to be a real estate agent? Did I want to do commercial real estate? Like how did I really want to do this whole real estate play?”
It was another connection—or, rather, re-connection—Dahntay made during that time that set him on his current course.
While in Boston, he met with Marshall Gobuty, a real estate developer based in Sarasota, Florida, who was in town to visit family of his own.
Dahntay and Marshall first crossed paths in the early 2000s, when the former was still at Duke University. Back in those days, Dahntay would spend his summers working out with his cousin, former preps-to-pros star Al Harrington, at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. So, too, would Marshall’s daughter, Marissa.
During that time, Dahntay and Marshall developed a rapport. As a public policy major with a minor in marketing management, Dahntay wanted to learn all he could about business. And Marshall, as a long-time real estate developer, had plenty of knowledge to share.
Dahntay and his cousin, Al Harrington, both played in the NBA and have since settled down in the LA area. (Anthony Perez)
As the years passed, and Dahntay’s on-court career proceeded through its myriad twists and turns, the two stayed in touch. Those conversations continued past Dahntay’s NBA career, and happened to pick up steam right as he was considering his options in real estate.
This time, Marshall came to Dahntay with a concept for eco-friendly, solar-powered, LEED Platinum-certified homes.
“My first thought was to go to the masses, to the affordable housing, to people who could not afford these resources, and give them a great home,” Dahntay says.
His second thought? Make the homes smart, using the latest technology in entertainment, security and sustainability from Google and Nest.
“Why can't we have the technology that I have in my home be given to everybody else?” Dahntay wondered. “Because it is there and it makes the home more efficient, period.”
Late last summer, after about a year spent helping Marshall bring his vision to life, Dahntay took his first walk through an actual, physical Pearl Home.
“He's going to be mad at me for saying it,” Dahntay says, “but it was my idea to put a physical one down, so that people could see it. I believed in his vision, mind you, but it's hard to get other people to believe without seeing.”
Even as an early backer of Pearl Homes, Dahntay was “super impressed” with the resulting 600-square-foot space—and, of course, all the gadgetry contained therein.
“It was amazing just to go from design stage, conceptual stage to actually brick and mortar, and it's down,” he says, “and all the things that you thought were going to be great actually working.”
A model Pearl Home. (Courtesy of Pearl Homes)
This spring, Pearl Homes will open its first development (Hunter Point Pearl Homes and Marina) with 86 units in the seaside fishing village of Cortez, Florida. Another development of 720 units is slated to open soon thereafter.
As exciting as that start could be from a business perspective, Dahntay is particularly intrigued by the communal arrangements of these houses. Rather than erecting them in rows, Pearl Homes will organize its structures around common spaces for residents to “come together, eat together, interact on a daily basis,” Dahntay says.
“I'm from Trenton, New Jersey, and the way I interacted with the people around me was what I'm most proud of,” he adds. “The relationships that I have from people across the street or down the street from me and how we all grew up together—that is the best part about life to me.”
According to Dahntay, there are currently plans in place for 1,100 homes, with the potential for another 1,100 to come shortly thereafter. Between the need for affordable housing nationwide and the ability to build a unit in just 90 days, Pearl Homes could be popping up from coast to coast—and beyond—in a hurry.
“There are no parameters,” Dahntay says. “There's no stoppage to how fast we can grow and how big we can be. It's just, let it evolve naturally.”
Dahntay hopes to build Pearl Homes back in Trenton, New Jersey. (Anthony Perez)
So far, that evolution has led to interest from other developers looking to build energy-efficient communities and tech companies hoping to house employees in a comfortable and cost-effective manner. Dahntay’s involvement in Pearl Homes has also attracted inquiries from some of his closest (and savviest) friends in the NBA, including Carmelo, Andre Iguodala and Kyle Lowry.
“They've been excited at the possibility of working together,” Dahntay says. “It's just that I'm trying to make the product the best possible before I bring it to them because I'm responsible at that point in time for their success. And I take that very, very seriously.”
To that end, Dahntay aims to eventually be a resource for other pro athletes who want to get into business like he did, but would prefer to do more than franchise restaurants and gyms while entrusting their money to people who understand their lifestyle. With his own desire to give back in mind, he hopes to help those whose career aspirations involve helping their hometowns—like, say, by building Pearl Homes.
“In this capacity, I'm coming at you with an opportunity to help where you came from because I understand where you come from,” he says, “and now we can work together because you trust me in more ways than one.”
Dahntay has found a passion for real estate development since he last played in the NBA in 2017. (Anthony Perez)
As for his own goals? Those are still in process. Dahntay would like to own an NBA team someday. He’d also like to build a Pearl Homes community back in Trenton.
“If I can work with city officials and state officials to be able to provide this, then that's a win for me,” he says. “And that is my ultimate goal, period.”
Beyond that, Dahntay is enjoying the ride. He may not move around quite like he did during his playing days, but between NBA TV gigs in Atlanta, more time in other studios and with family in LA, and, of course, trips to Florida to check on the progress of Pearl Homes, he’s plenty busy chasing that next thing that has him leaping out of bed every morning.
“It's just a process of trying to find another passion,” Dahntay says. “You just have to keep trying to develop and grow, move forward. And then sometimes, if you're patient, you can grab those life experiences and mold it together to what you really want to do.”
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.