With collegiate sports’ amateurism model under continued attack, multimedia sports brand Overtime is launching its own basketball league for NBA hopefuls, Overtime Elite (OTE), this fall. The company plans to recruit up to 30 high schoolers, offering six-figure salaries, an education tailored to elite athletes and on-court development including competition against international teams.
Overtime cofounder Zack Weiner said the league has been in development for 18 months, with an undisclosed funding round last year bolstering the project. Overtime’s investors have included MSG Networks, Andreessen Horowitz and Sapphire Ventures, as well as Kevin Durant, late NBA commissioner David Stern and Carmelo Anthony’s fund. Anthony will be on OTE’s board of directors.
“Many athletes aren’t properly prepared for what it really means to go pro,” Anthony said in a statement. “Having this type of guidance for high school players is critical in setting them up for a successful career, both on and off the court.”
Former NBA SVP Aaron Ryan will serve as OTE president, while former NBA player and front office exec Brandon Williams will lead basketball operations.
Since its founding in 2016, Overtime has evolved from creating and distributing highlight reels of amateur players to developing longer form content and its own intellectual property. Ryan said Overtime is talking to a number of media distributors about potential deals. In the meantime, the network has more than 45 million followers across platforms, with OTE content expected to live on multiple verticals.
“At the end of the day,” Weiner said, “it’s a serious basketball league. The goal is for the athletes to reach the NBA.”
As long as the NBA maintains its eligibility rules, OTE graduates will not be able to go directly to the league. The G League and international organizations could host them for a year, or they could attend college (though they would lose their NCAA eligibility if they get paid), among other options. Overtime will cover up to $100,000 in college tuition fees for those who don’t go pro. Players will also get equity shares in the company.
The planned curriculum will include offerings on financial literacy, media skills and social justice advocacy. The single site for the OTE has not yet been announced. “These young athletes should not only be surrounded by what it takes to prepare them (for the NBA) but also be compensated for it,” Ryan said.