On May 18, 2019, Overtime, the sports network geared towards the digital generation, transformed the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, into a one-day basketball experience, highlighted by 3-on-3 games and a dunk showcase among 24 of the top boys and girls high school basketball prospects.
Not only did Overtime Takeover serve as a way to engage Overtime’s young fanbase while showcasing the talents of elite basketball prospects including Mikey Williams, Zia Cooke, Zaire Wade, Jordan Horston and Jalen Suggs, it also proved to be the catalyst that sparked the creation of Overtime Elite.
Overtime Elite (OTE) is a new basketball league for up-and-coming elite high school prospects offering a year-round development program by combining coaching, sports science and performance technologies, facilities and an academic program that not only benefits players at this point in their career development, but also as they progress into the professional ranks.
The single-site league, beginning in September in a city still to be determined (there are two unnamed finalists), features approximately 30 elite boys basketball prospects, each earning a six-figure salary and the ability to participate in revenue from use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) including through the sale of customized jerseys, video games, NFTs or trading cards as they also retain the right to sign direct sponsorships with sneaker companies.
“From the beginning of Overtime we’ve been really fortunate to grow really close to these athletes and their families,” said Zack Weiner, Overtime co-founder and president. “That one-day Takeover event where we brought in the top athletes and got to know them was a really important moment for us. We really learned three things hearing from them that were kind of broken in the basketball ecosystem. … That was the basis for Overtime Elite.”
The three main issues plaguing the current basketball ecosystem brought up in discussions and conversations with top prospects and their families focused on basketball development, education and economic empowerment.
Overtime Elite aims to address each of these while providing elite prospects with another pathway to professional basketball.
To combat a lack of resources and access in basketball development, particularly among players between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, OTE features a 30-person basketball operations team led by longtime NBA executive Aaron Ryan as league commissioner and president and NBA champion and former Sacramento Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams as executive vice-president and head of basketball operations.
OTE athletes, who will compete against one another—even rotating among teams within the program—as well as top prospects from around the world, will have access to professional facilities staffed by coaches, executives and performance personnel with more than 30 years of experience in the NBA as well as experts in nutrition, fitness and sports science, including Dr. David T. Martin, who previously served as director of sports performance and research with the Philadelphia 76ers.
In the classroom, athletes are afforded a direct-instruction model led by individual instructors who will teach both one-on-one and in small group sessions featuring a 4:1 student-teacher ratio. Education around financial literacy, media training, mental health and social justice advocacy will be included as part of the curriculum.
“The most powerful force in education, which everyone strives for, is personalized education because we have different learning styles,” said Overtime cofounder and CEO Dan Porter, a former president at Teach for America. “I’ll look to leverage my network and we’re already in conversations with dynamic school principals—people who are very hands on—and also individual tutors who have the strongest academic backgrounds we can find but also appreciate and are interested in everything our athletes are going through.”
The biggest selling point is around athlete compensation. Each athlete will earn a guaranteed minimum salary of at least $100,000 plus bonuses and equity in Overtime. OTE athletes will also receive full healthcare coverage and disability insurance coverage. Overtime is also guaranteeing a payment of up to $100,000 for college tuition should an athlete decide to not pursue a professional basketball career.
Currently, the path to the professional ranks is limited in the basketball ecosystem. Highly touted prospects can either attend a college or university, forgoing any financial benefits as the NCAA continues its conversation around NIL—which was delayed as of January 21—or bypass the collegiate level to play in the NBA G League or abroad while earning a salary. Jalen Green, the No. 1 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class, chose the latter by signing with the NBA G League Ignite for $500,000 in April.
“These athletes deserve to be compensated right now for what they are,” Weiner said. “Even if they never make the NBA, people want to watch them play basketball and people want to potentially do endorsements with them off the court, so they deserve to be compensated now. For most of these athletes, they will end up playing professional basketball, and hopefully for a long time, so this also prepares them for that and puts the resources around them at an earlier age which is really beneficial. It’s that dual purpose.”
Founded in 2016, Overtime has raised more than $60 million in funding, including $23 million in its Series B raise in 2019. Boasting more than 40 million followers across seven platforms, with 88% under 35 years old, the New York City-based company’s investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Sapphire Sport, Spark Capital, Greycroft Ventures, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony’s Melo7 Tech II fund and the late NBA commissioner David Stern.
Carmelo Anthony, Jay Williams, Dan Porter, Zack Weiner and Aaron Ryan are on OTE’s Board of Directors with potentially others to be added.
“We’re well capitalized to do it,” Porter said. “We definitely thought long and hard about how to be well capitalized and make sure we were in a strong position to do this.”
With the high school basketball season in full swing in most states and others set to start soon due to delays from the coronavirus pandemic, Overtime Elite isn’t talking to, recruiting or announcing any athletes until its conclusion, though its network of scouts is keeping tabs on players who not only have basketball talent and potential, but will also fit in well into the program.
The first year will focus on elite boys prospects, but Weiner and Porter confirmed there’s a potential to expand to include girls prospects in the future.
Like its current content, Overtime will shape broadcasts, fan engagement, in-venue experiences and more to its digital-first generation fans and athletes. The co-founders acknowledge there may be detractors and doubters with the new league, but that comes with any change or disruption within a sector.
“The one thing that’s true is there’s always change and the second thing that’s true is that people don’t like change,” Porter said. “I don’t know who those people are going to be, but we feel that by doing what’s right for the athlete first and working with our platform on that, we’re going in a positive direction. Because we know we’ve built the program essentially in concert with families and with the athletes, we’re in a position where it’s about what we’re doing, and what we’re doing is something that’s bigger than us.”