Intermediary “Pro Sports Leagues” Are Paying Off

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 👇

Basketball Leagues

2023 NBA Draft:

  1. Victor Wembenyama – France
  2. Brandon Miller – Alabama
  3. Scoot Henderson – NBA G-League
  4. Amen Thompson – Overtime Elite
  5. Ausar Thompson – Overtime Elite

There were ZERO (0!) selections in the top-18 of this year’s draft that earned a bachelor’s degree.

Crazy right?!

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:

3 best college players not selected in nba draft

Let’s take a look at how intermediary leagues are producing top talent for the NBA (and could be applicable elsewhere).

Overtime Elite

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).

amen thompson and ausar thompson overtime elite to nba

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
overtime elite stadium

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).

Victor Wembanyama vs scoot henderson

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.

alternative pro sports leagues

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).

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