Porter, 55, is a grandnephew of economist Milton Friedman. A digital entrepreneur, he previously ran the video game studio that has become Omgpop. Prior to that, he spent a decade in education, including a stint as President of Teach for America. Weiner, now 29, comes from another generation. Three-time Ivy League chess champion at Penn, he had barely graduated when he and Porter started working overtime. The idea of creating an alternate path to the NBA appealed to their view of themselves as disruptive aliens. It was no coincidence that this promised to be another lucrative business.
The ongoing break from the traditional order of amateur basketball has been played out quite publicly. On July 1, following a Supreme Court ruling, the NCAA finally allowed its athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Yet a vast majority of them end up earning only the basic outlines of an education, even as sponsors, TV networks, and sneaker companies reap the multibillion dollar business profits. that sport has become. But the dysfunction starts sooner: Organized games between individual high schools, once the centerpiece of teenage competition, have become almost irrelevant. College recruiters prefer AAU tournaments, where they assess hundreds of prospects in a weekend. The AUA teams, organized and led by entrepreneurs with various motivations, with or without coaching experience, crisscross America from March to October. “It’s totally unhealthy,” says Ahlee Lewis.
Amid signs that the system was starting to crumble, Porter and Weiner saw an opportunity. They weren’t the only ones. In 2017, LaVar Ball, the father of two NBA guards, created the Junior Basketball Association, a league for disgruntled high school students that included eight franchises nationwide. (All of them have been nicknamed the Ballers.) It folded after a season. The Professional Collegiate League, Founded by a group that included a former sports director associated with Stanford, a lawyer from Cleveland and NBA veteran David West, was due to start playing this year as a salary alternative to NCAA basketball, but his debut has been postponed to 2022; players will need to be registered with the college to participate. And because players don’t become eligible for the NBA Draft until the year after they graduate from high school – a 15-year-old rule that could be changed after the current collective agreement expires with players union in 2024 – development The G League is now accepting prospects who have completed high school but do not want to play in college.
“They kept telling us, ‘You won’t be able to get the top players. With all that we could get, that crushed that argument.
But Porter and Weiner have something these leagues don’t: the 1.6 billion views their content gets every month. Their new venture is a professional teen league that will replace AAU, high school and college competitions. When they explained the concept to Carmelo Anthony, an overtime investor in his 19th NBA season, Anthony immediately embraced it. “He literally interrupted us in the middle of our field and finished it for us,” Weiner said. “When we started talking to other people about it, a lot of them said, ‘I was expecting something like this. “”
Many of these people have asked to buy a piece of it. Overtime is backed by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and an investor roster that includes Jeff Bezos, Drake, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit and four NBA franchise owners. The last round of funding, in April, raised over $ 80 million. Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Devin Booker and more than two dozen other current pros have joined Anthony to sign. For its first season, the league gathered 27 players, aged 16 to 20, into three teams of nine. They compete against each other and against high school and international teams who agree to play them. In the coming years, the league hopes to grow to six or eight teams that will face opponents from the G League, the best college programs and – “you never know,” Porter says – possibly the Knicks and Lakers.
The Overtime Elite coaching staff is led by Kevin Ollie, who coached UConn to a national championship in 2014. Players receive personalized nutrition plans and training programs. They are marketed on the Overtime social media network. (So far, sponsors include Gatorade and State Farm, which have signed multi-year, eight-figure contracts with the league. Topps has a licensing deal.) And in the most blatantly drastic departure, each player gets a small share. company and earns a salary of at least $ 100,000 per year, plus bonuses, depending on the contract he negotiated. Jalen Lewis and a few others make over $ 500,000. (“There is a market,” says Aaron Ryan, a former NBA executive who was hired as the league commissioner, “and the players are of varied value.”) In return, they agreed to give up. their last years of high school and every chance to play in college. That means no state titles or prom dates, no walks on leafy campuses, no March or Final Four madness. They also allow Overtime to use their names, pictures and likenesses, the same assets that college athletes come to gain the right to monetize for themselves, although Overtime Elite players are allowed to make their own deals with sponsors in non-competitive categories.