Tracy McGrady’s new one-on-one basketball league has joined a crowded sports entertainment scene and is looking to leverage a popular TV network to stand out.
Ones Basketball League (OBL) has inked an exclusive content and distribution deal with Showtime Sports as it builds out its long-term media strategy. The new deal is highlighted by an all-access, behind-the-scenes documentary and a rollout of digital content for the remainder of the inaugural season.
McGrady has paid for expenses for the league up to date but early proof of concept in the pilot season has helped the league gained attention from investors and potential sponsors. The league isn’t fundraising yet, but that could change entering the second season next year. OBL leadership is hoping the Showtime distribution will help create an avid national fanbase and get one step closer to creating the dynamic league McGrady envisions.
“Several times I’ve invested in other people’s ideas, and I felt like this is something that I truly believe in,” said McGrady, who hopes to be profitable by the third season. “I’m confident that this [investment] will come back to me.”
OBL strategic advisor Jeffery Pollack said it’s the largest media deal the startup league has signed since launching in April, with Showtime joining other partners in Slam Media, Playmaker, and Heart and Hustle Productions. Pollack declined to give specific numbers on the open-ended Showtime agreement.
“This is the American Idol of sports,” Pollack, former president of the XFL, said in a video interview. “There’s a lot of names that you don’t know but a lot of names that you should know. This platform that’s being created is about giving these athletes the opportunity to tell their stories and change their lives along the way.”
OBL is joining a competitive space, including a growing number of basketball leagues. They include Overtime Elite (OTE), Big3, G League Ignite and even internationals like Australia’s National Basketball League. The XFL, United States Football League (USFL) and Fan Controlled Football, as well as Overtime’s new 7-on-7 league, are among others that have recently launched or been reborn.
OBL features players 18 and older who aren’t signed to an NBA contract and haven’t played in more than 164 NBA games. These ballers are popular within local basketball circles but haven’t grown to national stardom, at least not yet. So like OTE, OBL is banking on Gen-Z viewers wanting to follow not only the basketball drama inside the tournaments but snackable personal stories of the players who are vying for the $250,000 grand prize.
OBL is halfway through its 2022 schedule—hosting two-day, 32-player tournaments in various venues across six different cities. The final three regional round-robin tournaments, to be held in New York City, Springfield, Va., and Los Angeles, will send winners to the Las Vegas Championship in July. OBL leadership plans to add women into the fold next season as equal participants.
The league currently is focused on proof of concept, with more of the effort geared toward event production and operation. OBL isn’t selling tickets during the six regional tournaments, hosting select friends and family in various small venues in its first year. OBL leadership expects that ticket sales, sponsorship and media deals will all eventually be part of the revenue model.
“Once we get going, in earnest, every revenue stream that any other pro sports league has will be there, but that’s not what this season is about,” Pollack added. “This is about proving out the concept and Tracy’s vision, and we’ll capture the whole journey for fans to eventually see.”