Teenagers make money to play basketball in high school
Bryson Warren is probably one of the few teenagers you’ll meet whose high school job comes with a guaranteed six-figure income.
Warren, 17, is among the first class of high school athletes to join Overtime Elite, a New York-based company that recruits — and pays — some of the world’s best high school and teenage basketball players to play basketball. his academy in Atlanta.
Overtime athletes take classes and study for a degree. They compete against each other and against other high school basketball teams from across the country. They also offer a base annual salary of at least $100,000 for each student-athlete, with on-field performance bonuses potentially pushing that figure above $1 million.
For Warren, who grew up near Little Rock, Arkansas, and was ranked by ESPN as the 14th best American basketball player in his age group, the appeal was obvious. Him and the other 26 Overtime student-athletes jumped at the rare opportunity to make big money as high school athletes, while working to hopefully make an even bigger leap to the NBA.
“Not many 17, 18, 19 year olds can say they made at least $100,000,” Warren told CNBC Make It. “We’re really getting a head start on life, just playing the game we love.”
What is Elite Overtime?
Founded in 2016 by Hollywood talent agency WMA alumni duo Dan Porter and Zack Weiner, Overtime is both a sports and entertainment experience.
The league, which kicked off its first competitive season last year, broadcasts games live and posts player highlights for Overtime’s millions of followers on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. According to Overtime, the content it creates with teenage athletes like Warren is viewed online more than 18 billion times a year.
Overtime has also raised more than $100 million from investors including Jeff Bezos’ investment firm, rapper Drake, a host of NBA stars – including Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony – and the company of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz.
The league declined to share revenue information with CNBC Make It, but noted that the company also makes money from streaming content, merchandise sales and sponsorships including State Farm, Gatorade and The Company. of Topps trading cards.
Aaron Ryan, the company’s president and commissioner and former NBA chief marketing officer, said the league is reinvesting some of that money back into its players.
“We cover food, accommodation, transportation, and all costs associated with participating in the program, first and foremost,” he says. “But also a performance bonus, as well as equity in our business, which is commensurate with what all other Overtime employees receive.”
Ryan says the league is also offering each player $100,000 towards tuition if they decide not to pursue the sport as a full-time career. The scholarship is purely academic: overtime players will not be eligible to play college basketball, as their salary qualifies them as “professional” athletes.
That’s why overtime also spent money on a basketball operations team, led by former Sacramento Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams, that could compare to most major programs. academics. The coaching staff is led by former NBA player and University of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, and includes former NBA player Ryan Gomes and former University of Virginia coach David Leitao .
Those names help Overtime attract top teenage talent from around the world: Overtime’s current roster of 27 includes at least eight athletes who were previously five-star college recruits, according to The Athletic.
Warren was one of those recruits. Signing with Overtime meant rejecting offers from powerhouse sports programs like Kansas, Maryland, Auburn, Georgetown and Oklahoma.
“Almost every offer you can think of,” he says with a smile.
A day in the life of a professional high school athlete
Warren spends most of his time at Overtime’s 100,000 square foot Atlanta facility, which is an all-in-one arena, training facility, dorm, and boarding school.
He is picked up by an overtime athletic trainer at 6:15 a.m. most mornings to spend about 90 minutes in the gym, before heading to a three-hour on-court basketball practice with his teammates. After lunch, Warren says, players head to overtime classrooms until about 4 p.m.
The Overtime Academy is an accredited institution with certified teachers, allowing student-athletes to earn high school diplomas — rather than GEDs — and begin taking college-level courses. Warren says it’s a typical high school curriculum, with “math, English, science or biology with social studies [and] the story.”
Warren says he particularly enjoys a “financial literacy” course, which teaches student-athletes the intricacies of signing professional contracts, questions to ask their agent and advisers, and how to practice responsible spending.
“They teach us who to have in your circle [of friends and family] and all that, just keeping your circle small,” Warren says. “[Six-time NBA All-Star] Tony Parker came in and talked to us [and] he told us it wasn’t about who you said ‘yes’ to, it was who you said ‘no’ to.”
After class, student-athletes typically head back to the gym or the basketball court to practice more, “and then the rest of the day is up to you,” Warren says.
Pursue your NBA dream
Without the overtime, Warren would currently be finishing his freshman year of high school and would likely receive intense recruiting offers from top college basketball programs. But if Warren feels like he’s missing out on choosing overtime over college, he doesn’t say so.
For now, he said, his focus is on reaching the NBA. His high ratings on ranking websites like ESPN suggest he has a good chance of making it. “My goal once the program is over is definitely to get drafted. [in the NBA]”, he says. “That’s the goal of everyone here.”
Warren also says he dreams of using his basketball success to have a positive impact on his community. He admires LeBron James, he says, for what James has done off the court – including opening a public elementary school in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio, where students have the opportunity to win free tuition at the University of Akron.
“Not everyone does that, just him willing to give back and open a school for free,” Warren says.
Warren already invests part of his overtime pay in a local AAU co-ed basketball team in his hometown of Arkansas, helping support kids in grades 2-6. Still, he says, he couldn’t resist at least one sensational purchase with his new income – and he had always dreamed of owning a Dodge Charger.
“It came true. So I was blessed to make it happen,” he says.
Warren says he’s aware that taking such a non-traditional path to pursue a lifelong dream can be incredibly risky. There’s no guarantee that overtime will give him a better chance of impressing NBA scouts than playing college or the NBA’s developmental G League.
“You can see overtime as a risk, or you can see it as an opportunity,” he says. “It’s the opportunity I chose, and it’s the one I’m going to live with, and I’m at peace now.”
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