NBA Rumor: Overtime Elite League

37 rumors in this storyline

More Rumors in this Storyline

Overtime Elite signs exclusive media rights deal with Amazon Prime

Overtime Elite, the company that has earned intrigue by launching a basketball league from scratch last year and shocking the sport’s ecosystem by signing and paying highly ranked high school players, has signed a media rights deal with Amazon Prime. The streaming network will air 20 OTE games in each of the next three seasons. Here’s what you need to know: * The contract, the first media rights deal for the league, furthers Amazon’s dip into live sports.

The Thompson twins, Amen and Ausur, could both be top 10 picks this June. That’s where they land in The Athletic’s first in-season mock draft. Amen Thompson is currently the player most likely to break into the loaded top-2 of this year’s draft. Ausur Thompson was projected as the No. 10 pick. If you care about the NBA next year you may want to watch those two this year. But there’s also talent for a few years after, too. Naasir Cunningham, the No. 3 recruit in the class of 2024 according to 247 Sports, just joined the program this summer. Alexandre Sarr, a 7-1 17-year-old from France, could be a first-round pick one day.

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.

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.

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 👉

Jalen Lewis becomes youngest prospect to turn pro in American history

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.

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.

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.”

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.
More HoopsHype Rumors
May 27, 2023 | 8:06 pm EDT Update
May 27, 2023 | 7:35 pm EDT Update
May 27, 2023 | 7:02 pm EDT Update