Thursday, December 08, 2022

Teens who got six figures to drop out of high school for basketball

Teens who got six figures to drop out of high school for basketball

Porter, 55, is the great-grandson of economist Milton Friedman. A digital entrepreneur, he previously ran the gaming studio that became Omgpop. Before that, he spent a decade in academia, including a stint as president of Teach for America. Weiner, now 29, comes from a different generation. A three-time Ivy League chess champion at Penn, he was barely graduating when he and Porter started overtime. The idea of ​​creating an alternative route to the NBA appealed to those viewed as disruptive outsiders themselves. It also, not coincidentally, promised to be another lucrative business.

The ongoing breakdown of the traditional order of amateur basketball has come to the fore quite publicly. On July 1, following a Supreme Court ruling, the NCAA finally allowed its athletes to be remunerated for the use of their names, images, and likenesses. Yet, a vast majority of them only own the education infrastructure, even as sponsors, television networks and sneaker companies profit from the multi-billion dollar business that sports have become. But the procrastination begins first: Games held between different high schools, once the focus of teen competition, have become almost irrelevant. College recruiters love AAU tournaments, where they evaluate hundreds of prospects over the weekend. AAU teams, organized and run by entrepreneurs with varying objectives, who may or may not have coaching experience, run from March to October across the US. “It’s completely unhealthy,” says Ahli Lewis.

Amidst signs that the system was beginning to unravel, Porter and Weiner saw an opportunity. They weren’t alone. In 2017, LaVar Ball, a father of two NBA guards, created the Play-for-Pay Junior Basketball Association, a league for disaffected high schoolers, consisting of eight franchises nationwide. (They were all nicknamed the Bowlers.) Joe folded after one season. The Professional Collegiate League, founded by a group that included a former associate athletic director at Stanford, a Cleveland lawyer, and NBA veteran David West, was to begin playing this year as a pay-earning alternative to NCAA basketball, but its The start was postponed until 2022; This will require that players be enrolled in a college in order to participate. And because players don’t become eligible for the NBA draft until the year after their high school class graduates — a 15-year rule that could expire in 2024 following the current collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union — the developmental G League. Now accepts prospects who have finished high school but do not want to play in college.

‘ They kept telling us, “You won’t get high-end players.” With every single one we were able to secure, it crushed that argument.’

But Porter and Weiner have something those leagues don’t have: the 1.6 billion views their content gets each month. Their new venture is a professional league for teenagers that will replace AAU, high school and college competition. When he explained the concept to Carmelo Anthony, an overtime investor playing in his 19th NBA season, Anthony immediately took to it. “He literally interrupted us in the middle of our pitch and ended it for us,” Weiner says. “When we started talking to other people about it, many of them said, ‘I was waiting for something like this.'”

Many of them asked to buy a piece of it. Overtime is backed by venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and a roster of investors that includes Jeff Bezos, Drake, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit and four owners of NBA franchises. The most recent round of funding, in April, raised more than $80 million. Kevin Durant, Trey Young, Devin Booker and more than two dozen other current professionals have joined in signing Anthony. For its first season, the league divided 27 players between the ages of 16 and 20 into three teams of nine. They compete against each other and against high school and international teams that agree to play them. In the coming years, the league is expected to grow to six or eight teams that will face G League opponents, the best college programs and — “you never know,” says Porter — eventually the Knicks and Lakers.

The coaching staff of Overtime Elite is run by Kevin Ollie, who coached Yukon to a national championship in 2014. Individual nutrition plans and training programs are given to the players. These are marketed on overtime social media networks. (So ​​far, sponsors have included Gatorade and State Farm, which have signed multiyear, eight-figure contracts with the league. Topps has a licensing deal in place.) And in the most apparently radical departure, each player gets the company’s support. receives a small portion and earns a salary of at least $100,000 annually, plus bonuses, depending on the contract he has negotiated. Jalen Lewis and a few others make over $500,000. (“There’s a market,” says Aaron Ryan, a former NBA executive who’s been hired as the league’s commissioner, “and the players have diverse values.”) In return, they go from high school to their own. Agreed to skip the remaining years and no chance to play in college that means no state titles or prom dates, no strolls on leafy campuses, no March Madness or the 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, although Overtime Elite players are allowed to compete with sponsors in non-competitive categories. You are allowed to make your own deals.

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