Opinion | This new program could change the future of college sports

Overtime Elite offers young players a fast track to the pros. But do its perks outweigh the risks?

Coby Leibowitz, Contributing Writer

LaMelo Ball and Jalen Green are known for taking unconventional routes to the pros. Now a new basketball league might open doors for more future NBA superstars to follow a similar path.

Overtime is a group of sports influencers that follow top high-school prospects. They post highlights, interviews, and challenges with top players. In other words, they give players something to work for. The social media giants are great at getting names out to scouts, but are they as good at creating a league?

The Overtime Elite (OTE) league offers its 16- to 18-year old players a salary with minimum pay of $100,000, a signing bonus and a couple shares in overtime stock. Not only will the players get a contract with a signing bonus, but they’ll also receive health and disability insurance. 

The new league isn’t perfect. It erases eligibility to compete in high school and college, but will allow players to go straight to professional leagues. If players decide not to pursue a basketball career, they get $100,000 toward a college scholarship to pursue academics. This league competes with the NCAA for prospects, so players have a lot of thinking to do when deciding if they want to give up their eligibility to take a different route to the pros.

Think of the league as a boarding school, or a sleep-away camp. Players are asked to move to a state, where they’ll join their team. They’ll have NBA-level coaching and training along with practices and games. The training staff will be led by former NBA player Brandon Williams, who played for teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks. Aside from training they will provide academic staff to teach the athletes and help them get their high-school degree while training. 

NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, have already invested millions in the league – likely because of the many benefits of the program.

One perk is that players can build their brand in a way that NCAA players cannot. When Carmelo Anthony was interviewed about his investment, he said he enjoyed college basketball but he feels the NCAA will never change. The NCAA has strict rules around personal branding, and because players don’t want to risk their eligibility, many miss out on financial opportunities. But this league gives young athletes an opportunity to start their brand at a young age and positively promote themselves on social media and other platforms. 

Another obvious benefit: players get paid. Any high-school player who doesn’t come from a lot of wealth might look to this league as a way to bring in income or fund college. And not to mention, the OTE league provides NBA-level training that’s better than any high school or college. 

But the slate of perks comes with some serious concerns. 

Most new start-up leagues, of any sport, fail. This new league costs a lot, so if it ends, it’ll leave young athletes with no league or eligibility. Another con: eligibility. You have to be at least 19 years old and a year out of high school to enter the NBA draft, so players might have to consider other options after they’ve graduated. They can try to join the NBA G League, take a year to train, or they can try to go play overseas, but these options are probably not ideal for most. And for players who might feel homesick, it hasn’t been confirmed whether families will be allowed to join them.

Come September, the league will likely get more popular. Right now, it could very well be a successful alternative to high-school and collegiate sports.

Coby Leibowitz is a freshman majoring in news media. His column runs regularly.