Overtime Elite rolls out its pathway to the pros

By John Lombardo
Overtime Elite’s 27 players will be divided into three teams of nine and will play more than 30 games each.Overtime Elite

Backed by $80 million in funding and a bold vision, the Overtime Elite basketball league launches this month, positioning itself as a new pathway to the pros for elite high school players.

  

The league, based in Atlanta and operated by the Overtime digital sports media company, was announced in March and will begin play on Oct. 29. The league aims to attract top high school players by offering six-figure salaries, training and academics while developing them into professional basketball players.

“The three themes are basketball, academics and economic empowerment,” said Overtime Elite Commissioner and President Aaron Ryan, adding the league will allow those young players to realize their value now as opposed to waiting to turn pro or to make money in college under name, image and likeness deals.

Overtime Elite

Headquarters: Atlanta
Employees: 70
Funding: $80 million
Key executives:
Dan Porter, CEO, founder, Overtime
Zack Weiner, president, co-founder, Overtime
Aaron Ryan, Overtime Elite commissioner, president
Brandon Williams, Overtime Elite EVP, head of basketball operations 
Mark Johnson, Overtime Elite EVP, head of business operations
Kevin Ollie, Overtime Elite head coach, director of player development

The Overtime Elite launch includes a roster of 27 players who will be divided into three teams of nine. The teams will each play more than 30 games from late October through March against some of the top prep schools.

Overtime Elite pays all room, board and player development costs along with academic instruction. The league touts its academic component featuring a 4:1 student-teacher ratio and a curriculum offering of traditional high school courses, along with life skills instruction such as financial literacy, social media and other media training, and mental health and wellness.

In addition to the six-figure salaries, Overtime Elite will also pay $100,000 toward a player’s college education should the player decide to not pursue professional basketball. Players will also share in an undisclosed cut of merchandising and licensing, and likely NFT deals.

Overtime Elite has spent the past year scouting top high school players both in the U.S. and globally, with six international players currently in the league. “We have an eight-person scouting team to get us in front of the best young players in the world,” Ryan said.

By signing with Overtime Elite, players will forgo their high school and college eligibility.

“It’s commitment above and beyond AAU and high school,” Ryan said. “We make sure we are aligned with the collective mission of the family.”

Aaron Ryan (left), Zack Weiner, Dan Porter and Brandon Williams are the forces behind the new league.Overtime Elite

Zack Weiner, Overtime co-founder and president, said the Overtime Elite business model is based on three revenue buckets: sponsorship, licensing and merchandising, and media rights.

To date, the league has signed Gatorade as its first sponsor. It also has a trading card licensing deal with Topps. No media rights deal has yet been signed. Overtime is banking on its 50 million followers on various digital platforms to drive interest from a young demographic. Overtime is a sports network that produces original content across social media and digital platforms such as YouTube and Snapchat. Overtime Elite will provide another source of content for the company.

Overtime has not hired an agency to sell to sponsors and the company won’t disclose its annual operating budget.

The venture’s $80 million in funding includes investment from Jeff Bezos, Drake, and some two dozen NBA players, including the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, the Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant.

“Our plan is to leverage our 50 million followers,” Weiner said, adding that Overtime will feature game highlights and off-the-court content on its platforms while taking a strategic approach in looking at deals with major media companies and streaming companies.

Games won’t be streamed live initially, but will be taped and shown on YouTube. “We are not interested in a media rights deal for Game 1,” Weiner said. “We will learn a lot. There are a lot of different opportunities.”

Overtime Elite has developed a 105,000-square-foot facility featuring courts, classrooms and a training center. In addition, the company has built a “show court” for games that will have up to eight camera angles and a capacity of about 1,222. Overtime Elite’s players will travel for select games as well.

“It is a stadium built for a digital audience,” Weiner said. “What is unique is the young athlete focus and the young audience focus.”

“The biggest challenge is that we are moving fast,” Weiner added. “With something that hasn’t been done before, there are a lot of moving pieces.”

Because the NBA has an age 19 eligibility requirement, Overtime Elite is a new option for young players to be paid. Another is the G League Ignite team that is a developmental program created as an alternative to college basketball.

The inaugural Overtime Elite season is attracting attention from NBA player agents such as Todd Ramasar, who sees potential in the new league.

“It is a viable option,” said Ramasar, who founded his Life Sports Agency that represents Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors and others. “You have a major brand, or media company, in Overtime that is well capitalized so funding isn’t an issue. They have done a good job of managing the basketball operations of the new venture and you have the ingredients to be successful. There is the compensation component and you have a media component to help build recognition. It is not for everybody, but it is viable.”

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