Intermediary "Pro Sports Leagues" Are Paying Off: 2023 NBA Draft Proves This
The gap between high school, college, and the pros is silently being disrupted.
Did you watch the NBA Draft last week?
Something very interesting took place that caught my eye…
4 of the first 5 draft picks never stepped foot on a college campus.
Let’s Dive In 👇
2023 NBA Draft:
Victor Wembenyama - France
Brandon Miller - Alabama
Scoot Henderson - NBA G-League
Amen Thompson - Overtime Elite
Ausar Thompson - Overtime Elite
There were ZERO (0!) selections in the top-18 of this year’s draft that earned a bachelor’s degree.
I think it’s paramount that the NBA starts showing rookies how LeBron, Magic, & Shaq have made most of their income off the court — but that’s a convo for another day.
This was interesting as well:
Let’s take a look at how intermediary leagues are producing top talent for the NBA (and could be applicable elsewhere).
Overtime Elite (OTE) is an Atlanta-based basketball league that compensates athletes with a base pay of $100,000 per year plus bonuses.
There are three teams across the league with 30 total players in their ecosystem.
Twins Amen and Ausar Thompson joined the league last year (and we’re selected #4 and #5 in this year’s NBA draft).
OTE did something smart last year…
They allow players to forgo their salary to stay eligible for name, image, and likeness (NIL) opportunities — this has allowed the program to cast a wider net in recruiting high school players who want to maintain their NCAA eligibility.
OTE also provides an educational program that is meant to supplement the traditional high school curriculum. And Overtime, has more social media followers than most NBA teams.
This has attracted attention + capital…
40+ NBA players have invested
Jeff Bezos and Drake put in money
Signed a streaming deal with Amazon
Overtime raised a $100M Series D last year
Carmelo Anthony + Pau Gasol are board members
State Farm, Gatorade, and Meta Quest are sponsors
But let’s take a step back…
Did you know that Overtime started as a recruiting app before pivoting to a media company and then finally building its league structure?
And they recently started building out their 7-on-7 football league 👀
OTE wants to disrupt the traditional model of high school → college → pros.
G-League & International Ball
While new leagues/companies like Overtime are making strides — at the same time traditional alternative leagues are gaining steam.
The 3rd pick in the NBA draft, Scoot Henderson, joined the G-League two years ago at only 18 years old.
European countries continue to pump out top talent, such as Victor Wembenyama (#1 pick in the draft).
With contracts continuing to increase, the game becoming more global, and proper developmental programs the NBA is set to become more competitive than ever before.
Where’s This All Headed
There’s great benefit in building these intermediary leagues that sit between high school, college, and the pros.
players still get paid solid money
assistance in building their brand
option to go to college is still available
national spotlight as leagues are smaller
surrounded by players with the same goals
have fewer distractions compared to college
direct path to the pros and assistance getting there
And with NIL donor money in college showing to not be sustainable, Overtime Elite and the G-League offer a guaranteed payment route.
On the flip side, the NBA wants to funnel the best talent and marketable players as soon as possible (they don’t want them in college for 3 years).
But it doesn’t stop here…
I think this same playbook is possible in other sports as well (and I’m curious to see who builds them out).
Today’s guest is Courtney Jeffries — CEO, VRTL.
VRTL creates two-way event experiences to authentically and seamlessly connect teams, leagues, and athletes with fans.
You’ll enjoy this episode as we discuss:
Understanding fans + fan engagement
The opportunity she saw to build VRTL
Thoughts on NIL, AR/VR, Web3, and AI
Check out the podcast episode here.
Courtney has been a part of sports her entire life from D1 softball to working for the Oakland Raiders, MSG, Satisfi Labs, and now in the founder seat at VRTL.
Thanks for reading (and listening) today!
Have a great rest of your day.