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Overtime launching new high school basketball league for NBA hopefuls

Overtime Elite will pay players a guaranteed US$100k salary per season.

5 March 2021 Ed Dixon
  • OTE set to launch in September and be made up of 16 to 18-year-olds
  • League offers alternative to playing at high school and collegiate levels before NBA eligibility
  • Overtime CEO Dan Porter says he expects “tens of millions of people” will want to watch

Digital sports media company Overtime has announced plans for a new basketball league for 16 to 18-year-olds, which will pay players a guaranteed US$100,000 per year.

Set to launch in September, Overtime Elite (OTE) will allow participants to dispense with playing at the high school and collegiate levels before becoming eligible for the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The competition will initially consist of 30 players from across the world and be based in a single location, discussions for which are ongoing. Aaron Ryan, a former senior vice president at the NBA, will serve as president and commissioner.

Overtime will also cover all health insurance and allow players to earn bonuses, as well as take a stake in the company.

As for its revenue model, Overtime chief executive Dan Porter told CNBC that OTE will need to change “from ecommerce and media to ecommerce, media, rights and licensing much like a league”, adding that the competition will eventually aim to sell its media rights.

Talks are continuing over brand partnerships and distribution for OTE.

The league could provide a major shakeup for basketball players looking to make it in the pro ranks. Porter said the traditional high school and college route in the US has prompted disapproval from families of top athletes, citing schools making millions of dollars off their talent but not providing financial rewards.

In response to this, OTE says it will offer top education, residences and training. Crucially, though, OTE is set to provide players with the right to make money off their brand, in addition to getting paid to play.

Currently, college is viewed as the most viable path to the NBA, enabling players to build up their reputation before becoming eligible for the draft. The NBA prohibits players under the age of 19 from entering the league.

However, it is possible to bypass college and still find a way into the NBA. A recent example is LaMelo Ball, who played in the Australia-based National Basketball League (NBL) with the Illawarra Hawks. He was then drafted third by the Charlotte Hornets ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.

The NBA also has its G League Ignite draft prospects outfit, which features high school prospects. Overtime inked a deal with the G League last December to create daily video content for the team.

If OTE players choose not to pursue a professional career, the league will provide a further US$100,000 for college tuition. However, if they do compete in the league, players will not be eligible for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) due to them being paid, which is prohibited by the organisation. 

“We’re doing it based on the observation of how these young athletes are trying to change the system and make it work for them,” said Porter.

“We are a big platform, and that makes us a good place to go out and find talent.

“We’re starting a league from scratch. We don’t have any legacy overhang. We can build a model that feels like a 21st century model both in terms of how startups and how digital companies are created.”

He continued: “It’s a professional path. But unlike a pure farm system, this is competition. We expect tens of millions of people will want to tune in and watch. And why do we expect that? Because they are already watching on our platforms today.”

Founded in 2016, Overtime has become one of the biggest US sports media brands amongst younger generations. The company has an audience of more than 40 million fans and followers, with nearly 90 per cent of those aged under 35.

Overtime Elite

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