Just as the Thompsons believed their best route to the NBA went through Overtime Elite, the league was founded on a conviction that millions of Gen Z, cord-cutter and cord-never users — and the brands that covet that demographic — would follow those journeys through social media, one post at a time. Overtime chief executive Dan Porter wouldn’t say how much it cost to get the league up and running. “I can say,” he added, “it cost us a gallon of blood, two gallons of sweat and three gallons of tears.”
Along with the two-year-old G League Ignite, the NBA-sponsored team that signs high school graduates and tutors them for one year before they become eligible for the draft, Overtime has shown it can be a “disruptor” to the NCAA, said Jay Bilas, the ESPN college basketball analyst. “I wouldn’t call them any sort of existential threat to the NCAA system because they’re not going to be taking all of the players,” Bilas said. “But they’ll be taking some of the top players, and that is certainly going to impact the college game.” Because Overtime has yet to sell its live media rights for game broadcasts, wanting to first build its social following, it registers most with its young fans. On TikTok, Overtime’s general account has 19 million followers and Overtime Elite’s account surpassed 1 million in May — more than 25 NBA teams.
Viewers might also see the dining area, splashed with Gatorade logos, the basket stanchions wrapped in State Farm’s logo, the winter dunk competition that was broadcast in virtual reality within Meta Quest, Facebook’s virtual-reality headsets, and the Topps trading cards with players’ images. They are the result of “brand partnerships” Leavitt helped orchestrate that he called multiyear, multimillion-dollar deals. “We make money the same way other sports leagues do — we build a robust sponsorship pipeline, group licensing around trading cards and more,” Porter said. “We also build media rights and grow those over time starting with an already engaged Overtime audience.”
Overtime Elite, a private school, basketball league and media conglomerate, opened this fall in a glitzy new arena in Atlanta. The complex houses a main court where players compete against each other and other prep-school teams, practice courts, a weight room, physical therapy center, made-to-order kitchen, lounge and locker rooms. A corporate suite filled with social media producers and editors stand ready to turn everything the players are doing into entertainment content for Overtime, the sports media startup whose founders dreamed up this idea. Deeper within the arena is academic space, where teachers and administrators are trying to redesign players' final years of high school and first years of post-secondary life to be more personalized, rigorous and relevant. And in a condensed time frame. Most days, school only lasts a few hours.
Overtime Elite recruits athletes to start in their junior or senior years, or immediately after high school. Because players must be one year out of high school and at least 19 to be eligible for the NBA draft, OTE enrolls both high school and "post-grad" players up to 20 years old. Post-grads are guided into part-time internships or college classes that work around their training schedule. All players must take twice-weekly life skills courses, which focus on everything from financial literacy to contract negotiations to personal brand management and media training. Players must understand how to monetize themselves, whether they make it pro or pivot to another career, leaders say. That means knowing how to manage money, build a team and make strategic decisions.
Because the players live and practice together but often face off in games, OTE incentivizes competitiveness with performance bonuses. The team with the highest standings at the end of the season wins an additional $10,000 – for each player. That keeps the play level high for a $7 game ticket. But the young players still occasionally lost themselves amid testosterone, adrenaline or a lack of body awareness. Many are still teens, after all. They moved to Atlanta Sept. 13; their first game was Oct. 29. On that night in January, eight NBA scouts watched from the stands.
Overtime Elite’s coaching staff is run by Kevin Ollie, who coached UConn to a national championship in 2014. The players are given personalized nutrition plans and training programs. They are marketed across Overtime’s social media network. (So far, sponsors include Gatorade and State Farm, which signed multiyear, eight-figure contracts with the league. Topps has a licensing deal.) And in the most obviously radical departure, each player gets a small share of the company and earns a salary of at least $100,000 annually, plus bonuses, depending on the contract he has negotiated. Jalen Lewis and some others make more than $500,000. (“There is a marketplace,” says Aaron Ryan, a former N.B.A. executive who has been hired as the league’s commissioner, “and players have varied value.”) In return, they have agreed to forgo their remaining years of high school and any chance of playing in college. That means no state titles or prom dates, no strolls on leafy campuses, no March Madness or Final Four. They also allow Overtime to use their names, images and likenesses, the same assets that college athletes have just earned the right to monetize for themselves, though the Overtime Elite players are permitted to strike their own deals with sponsors in noncompetitive categories.
To ease the transition to N.B.A. life, Overtime Elite requires its players to spend as much as 20 hours a week in an academic setting, a mash-up of online classes, face-to-face instruction and guest lectures. Players are taught how to give news conferences and use social media. They learn how agents and sponsors operate. They also take basketball-focused versions of conventional subjects, math and history and English, so they will have fulfilled the necessary requirements if they ever want to apply to college. If basketball doesn’t work out, Overtime Elite promises to pay $100,000 toward a degree to any player who wants to get one.
But if someone never reaches the N.B.A., will losing the opportunity to play in high school and college have been worth a few sure years of substantial income? When I put the question to Porter, he dismissed it. He described the connections made with Overtime Elite’s sponsors, investors and affiliated celebrities as yet another form of compensation, as if a shooting guard who turns out to be a step too slow could simply go to work for Drake instead. “We’re a family,” he insists. “We’re not going to forget about these guys.” If an Overtime Elite alum is struggling at some point in the future, Porter promised to volunteer his own services. “He can call me,” he says. “I’ll help him find a job.”
But here’s the best part — Porter and Weiner ended up raising a $2.5 million seed round in 2017, and former late NBA commissioner David Stern was their first investor. "This is a generation that doesn't just want to read the news. They want to make and participate in it.” NBA Comissioner David Stern said at the time. Overtime ended up using the money to build a proprietary short-form programming content creation & distribution process. In simple terms, they paid a network of thousands of contributions to attend high school games, capture unique highlight-style content, and upload it remotely from their mobile device to a central database.
This week’s “road trip” was a local one to Overtime Elite (OTE), the newly formed basketball academy in midtown Atlanta that offers an alternate model to the NCAA or G League for teenage basketball talent. OTE had its pro day on Saturday morning, with scouts from nearly every NBA team in attendance to watch a pool of 25 players who will be draft-eligible over the next three years. OTE is paying these players, none of whom are NBA-eligible yet, similar to what the NBA does with the G League Elite squad with the or Australia’s NBL does with its NextStars program (or what college teams are, um, rumored to occasionally do).
Scouts weren’t sure what to expect, but they walked away impressed. The day’s program played out on time and exactly according to plan; having been to scores of agent-led pre-draft workouts, I can assure you this novelty was appreciated. The scouts weren’t just treated to a dog-and-pony show of prospects dunking on 5-7 trainers, either; we got to see real basketball. Everyone received a detailed information packet with player info, testing numbers and stats, and everyone was COVID-19 tested before they entered the building. Most importantly, of course, the coffee didn’t run out.
Nobody knows whether this model will succeed – “how will they make money?” remains an open question – but the first impression came across as professional, and the level of investment here is substantial. OTE employs a 34-person basketball staff led by formers Kings executive Brandon Williams, a staff that includes coaches, analytics, performance staff and trainers, and video and equipment teams.
Among the most notable in that category was 2022 draft-eligible forward Kok Yat, who was fairly lightly regarded entering the event but sure as heck won’t be after Saturday. The 6-foot-8 Yat showcased a smooth shooting stroke, plus length and enough mobility to comfortably defend guards. The cousin of Charlotte forward JT Thor, I hadn’t seen Yat on any top-100 lists entering the weekend, but I suspect that will change dramatically the next time draftniks update their rankings.
Jonathan Wasserman: 29 teams at Overtime's pro day today (no Portland). NBA clearly taking OTE serious, as they should, definitely future pros, some lottery talent in the program with Montero, Thompsons, Bewleys
Topps: BREAKING: Topps is teaming up with @overtime Elite to capture the next generation of talent and make our long-awaited return to the court! 👀🏀 Plus, we're even dropping first EVER #ToppsNOW OTE cards to intro the league! Be the first to collect them 👉 http://ow.ly/g5Jl50GfbAA
Overtime Elite struck again Thursday, this time signing star point guard Bryson Warren. Warren is a 6-foot-2 point guard hailing from Arkansas. He was the 2021 Arkansas Player of the Year at Little Rock Central thanks to averages of 24.1 points, 3.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals while shooting 57.5% from the field and 43.6% from 3-point range. He had recently transferred to Link Year Prep in Missouri before joining Overtime Elite.
Tyler Smith joined the growing number of elite prep players to sign with Overtime Elite. "This is different and new," he said to ESPN's Jonathan Givony. "I wanted to be a pro already, working on stuff that NBA players work on. In high school you can't work out as much as they do at OTE."
"My goal wasn't to play college," Smith said. "It's to play in the NBA. This will get me there faster and make me more ready once I'm there. I've been talking to them for three months already. They've been telling me they have NBA facilities, trainers, and nutritionists from NBA teams." Fifteen players have already signed with OTE. Jalen Lewis, Ausar Thompson, Amen Thompson and Jazian Gortman are among the headliners.
Adrian Wojnarowski: OTE’s recruiting of top young prospects has been strong: seven 5-star prep players, four top international players and a potential 2022 lottery pick. The NBA will be spending time scouting and evaluating there.
High school junior Jalen Lewis — a five-star basketball recruit — is signing a contract with the new Overtime Elite professional league, sources tell The Athletic. His multiyear deal is worth more than $1 million, sources said. Lewis, 16 and born in 2005, is the youngest prospect ever to turn pro in America. The 6-foot-8, 215-pound center from Oakland, Calif., (Bishop O'Dowd High) is 12th in the Class of 2023 in the 247Sports Composite Rating. Kentucky, Duke and UCLA were among the schools recruiting Lewis, sources said.
Overtime Elite has continued to attract top talent, signing a pair of highly ranked twin brothers: Matt and Ryan Bewley and Auser and Amen Thompson. This gives OTE three top prospects for the 2023 high school class. OTE has also signed top international prospects, including Jean Montero, Alexandre Sarr and Nathan Missia-Dio. Overtime Elite is planning to start in September with former Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie serving as head coach.
On Friday, Overtime Elite announced that it has signed 17-year-old Jean Montero, the first international prospect to join its inaugural class of players set to debut in September. Montero, who is from the Dominican Republic, has played the past two seasons with Gran Canaria of the Liga ACB, the top professional league in Spain. He averaged 18.4 points and 4.6 assists per game during his two seasons with Gran Canaria.
Montero is the fifth prospect to sign with OTE, joining a pair of twin brothers in Amen and Ausar Thompson and Matt and Ryan Bewley. Montero is also the first professional player to sign with the new startup league, which will be based in Atlanta, Georgia. Led by head coach Kevin Ollie, OTE provides a comprehensive accelerator for elite players’ professional careers.
Shams Charania: Florida twins Amen and Ausar Thompson – rising high school seniors and five-star prospects – are bypassing HS/college and signing two-year contracts with the new Overtime Elite professional league, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.
A pair of top recruits in the class of 2023 plan to forego college and join the Overtime Elite professional league, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Matt and Ryan Bewley will sign two-year deals worth over $1 million with the Overtime league, per Wojnarowski. They are the first first prep underclassmen to sign contracts with the league. Matt Bewley is the No. 3 recruit in the class of 2023, per the 247Sports composite rankings. Ryan Bewley is No. 20.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Two Florida brothers ranked in the top 15 high school juniors in the country – Matt and Ryan Bewley – are signing two-year deals with the Overtime Elite professional league, sources tell ESPN, marking first prep underclassmen to sign contracts with an American basketball league.
Transformative new sports league OTE (Overtime Elite) announced today that it has selected Atlanta as its home. OTE selected the city of Atlanta after a year-long search, during which league officials visited and studied eight cities across the United States. OTE, which offers the world’s most talented young basketball players a better pathway to becoming professional athletes, begins playing in Atlanta this September. “If we could construct a city that would be the perfect home for Overtime Elite, it would look just like Atlanta,” said Overtime Elite Commissioner and President Aaron Ryan. “The city’s storied basketball history, diverse population, vibrant business community and rich culture make Atlanta a special place. OTE is looking forward to being an active contributor to the community.”
Former UConn Huskies coach and 13-year NBA veteran Kevin Ollie has been hired as head coach and director of player development for the Overtime Elite, a new professional basketball league for top prospects between 16 and 18 years old, sources told ESPN. A formal announcement is expected on Monday morning.
Overtime Elite, which will feature up to 30 players ages 16 to 18 who will be paid a minimum salary of $100,000 along with bonuses and equity, is slated to begin in September 2021. If an Overtime Elite player doesn’t ultimately pursue a pro career, the league will pay them up to $100,000 towards college tuition. Overtime, which includes Durant, Carmelo Anthony and late NBA Commissioner David Stern among its investors, was founded in 2016. Ollie, who is still in arbitration with UConn over the $10 million he was still owed on his contract and isn’t permitted to discuss his exit from the program as a result, wrote an Op-Ed for The Athletic about his return to the basketball world.
OTE is designed to offer the world’s top prospects the development, education and economic empowerment to address these issues head-on. On the court, OTE players will compete against the top prospects from around the world. They will have access to pro-grade training and coaching to level-up their game, and to world-class facilities, nutritionists and sports scientists who can hone their bodies. Players will also earn six-figure salaries and have the opportunity to be compensated for their name, image and likeness. They will earn a high school diploma and receive professional training in financial literacy, social media, media training and the business of basketball. I had to learn all of this on my own when I entered the NBA.
June 28, 2022 | 3:09 am EDT Update
Jake Fischer on Jalen Brunson: From everything I’ve heard, it really does sound like things have shifted, and he is more more likely than not to become a member of the Knicks as opposed to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Kevin Durant was very loyal to Kyrie Irving through this process… So the expectation right now is that Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving will move forward for the Nets on this roster this year.” 🗣️ Adrian Wojnarowski
Nets Daily: Woj on KD: “Kevin Durant now has what he wants, which was Kyrie Irving back on the Nets season, so the expectation is that right now, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving will move forward … but Kevin Durant hasn’t talked yet. has not expressed that publicly. We’ll wait and see.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Irving has until Wednesday at 5 PM to file the paperwork on his opt-in. The Nets can still move Irving as an expiring contract, but the opt-in means he’s no longer eligible to get the immediate long-term deal he wanted as part of a sign-and-trade.
Speaking via ESPN, Windhorst said Monday: “Let’s take a look at Miles Bridges. He’s not being offered, from what I’m told, a max contract from the Charlotte Hornets right now. So, he’s going to go out into the market place, starting on Thursday or Friday, and see if he can get that offer from somewhere else.”
The Athletic conducted a poll, asking 16 officials in NBA front offices what they would deem a fair number for Barrett in an extension this summer or fall. Responses ranged from $15 million to $30 million a year. No one advocated for the Knicks to give him the max. Exactly half of the responses were a nice, clean four years, $100 million, making it by far the most common proposal from the polled executives.