Overtime, a sports media and marketing company with a professed 50 million social followers, has picked Atlanta as the permanent home for a high-level teen basketball league that will recruit talent from all over the world.
The company, funded to the tune of an $80 million Series C round by investors like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, entertainer Drake and 25 NBA players including the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, will build a 103,000-square-foot facility at Atlantic Station where players will train, study and play.
Overtime Elite, as the league is known, will create 400 construction jobs and 100 permanent hires in a city executives say was tailor-made for the experiment, given its role in media, sports and culture — and its role in the nationwide conversation on racial equity.
“If we could construct a city that would be the perfect home for Overtime Elite, it would look just like Atlanta,” said Overtime Elite Commissioner and President Aaron Ryan, a former NBA entertainment and operations executive that headed up global marketing partnerships till 2017. Atlanta reportedly won out over seven other cities in consideration.
Mr. Young said in a release that the the move helps solidify Atlanta as a “global center for basketball development,” but fans from around the world will be equally drawn to the city.
“We’re recruiting a number of players from abroad, and with that will be a following in terms of their families, friends and countries who are supporting them in their journey,” spokesman Ben Sosenko told Global Atlanta.
Fittingly for a company that has grown its business by allowing paid content generators and athletes to post highlight reels from games and build their own brands and online followings, Overtime Elite’s facility will be built for the digital age, decked out in cameras that will capture the action from various angles. It will also offer as merchandise everything from name jerseys to non-fungible tokens, or NFTs — digital assets whose ownership has been authenticated via blockchain.
The goal is not only to give young people their own platform, but also to prepare them for a longer-term future within the game and beyond.
The 16- to 18-year-olds selected for the league will be paid at least a $100,000 salary annually and provided $100,000 per year toward a college scholarship in the event that they don’t land an NBA contract.
They’ll also be offered equity shares in Overtime, as well as a rigorous high school curriculum supplemented by training in financial literacy, the business of basketball, media engagement, social justice advocacy and more.
They’ll be able to make money off their image and likeness — a practice long prohibited even at the college level, though that is changing amid pressure from advocates who say universities have exploited their talent. Gov. Brian Kemp two weeks ago signed HB 617 into law during a ceremony at the University of Georgia, reversing this prohibition in the state, though questions remain about its implementation.
More broadly, Overtime sees itself as rectifying what executives view as a core inequity affecting amateur in certain sports: While golfers and tennis players can begin earning mega contracts at a very young age, the NBA has no waiver for athletes under 18, and the NFL has a rule against turning pro after high school.