Although Larry Nance Jr. earns a career as an intelligent and skilled basketball player for the New Orleans Pelicans, the forward said his “first love” was in a different game.
“Number one until I got too tall for it,” Nance said. “I essentially played basketball by proxy. About 6-foot-6. Then they were like, ‘Play goalie or quit.’ So I chose basketball.”
Nance’s love for the game endures even after he gave it up. He travels across the Atlantic Ocean every summer to see several European clubs compete. He made many trips to Leeds, England, before deciding to join the group that bought the club during the summer after becoming so deeply attached to the squad and its following.
“Throughout the past few years, I’ve had a few opportunities to get on board with a few different ownership groups,” Nance said. “Every time, I would go over there to check them out. See the grounds. Meet the people. Just walk around the city and all that. I did that and didn’t feel a sense of ‘this is me’ until I got to Leeds. The city felt a little like home.”
Nance was raised close to Cleveland. He saw connections between Leeds and his hometown.
“It’s working-class, blue-collar people that were super friendly,” Nance said. “They were super friendly and very helpful. For me, that was a huge factor in the decision-making process. On top of all that, Leeds is a massive, massive club with a rich history. The opportunity to awaken a sleeping giant was too good for me to pass up.”
Leeds is a 104-year-old club that has played all of its games at Elland Road Stadium. Three times, Leeds has won the League Championship.
Leeds was one of three teams who were demoted from the Premier League to English football’s second level on the last day of the 2022–23 season.
Nance, who has 339,000 followers on X and is active there, has seen firsthand how passionate NBA supporters can be. Nance said that their passion for basketball pales in comparison to the intense feelings experienced by English soccer supporters.
“Got to be honest with you: This is no insult to NBA fans or fans we have in America, but that is real live-and-die-by-your-team fandom,” Nance said. “That’s another reason why I love it. They don’t just go to the games and talk about it to talk about it online. They live it. They die for it. There are thousands of season-ticket holders on the waiting list. They live and breathe Leeds United. That’s part of why I love it. It’s a real atmosphere.”
Nance also feels that soccer is more team-oriented than basketball, which he likes.
“I think one of the cooler parts about it is no matter how good a player is, over there, you are not bigger than the club,” Nance said. “If you’re holding out for money or holding out for whatever it is, you’re out. The club comes first. That’s final. No matter how good you are.
“That’s very different than America. And something I think is very cool. Kind of how sports should be.”
Nance is part of a wave of NBA players who have taken stakes in professional soccer teams. LeBron James owns a piece of Liverpool in the English Premier League. James Harden (Houston Dynamo), Kevin Durant (Philadelphia Union) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nashville S.C.) are partial owners of Major League Soccer teams.
For Nance, the investment had much more to do with his heart than his head.
“I am a fan who bought into the club,” Nance said. “I like the owner title because I’m proud of it. But at the same time, I consider myself more of a heavily invested supporter.
“It’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments to date. I’ve been looking for ownership on the soccer side for a long time. This opportunity came about, and it just felt like the right one. Brought my wife over there to visit. I’ll be back whenever I get a chance to. Try to make that a second home.”