Bryson Warren is probably one of the few teens 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 elitea New York-based company that recruits, and pays, some of the best high school and teen basketball players from around the world to play at its academy in Atlanta.
the athletes in Overtime attend classes and study for a diploma. They compete against each other and against other high school basketball teams from around the country. They also offer a base annual salary of at least $100,000 for each student-athlete, with performance bonuses on the court that could push that figure to more than $1 million.
For Warren, who grew up near Little Rock, Arkansas, and was ranked by ESPN as the 14th best American high school basketball player in his age group, the appeal was obvious. He and the other 26 Overtime’s student-athletes took advantage of the rare opportunity to make big bucks as high school athletes, while working to hopefully make an even bigger leap into the NBA.
“Not a lot of 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds can say they’ve made at least $100,000,” Warren tells CNBC Make It. “We’re really getting a head start on life, just playing the game we love.”
Founded in 2016 By Dan Porter and Zack Weiner, a pair of Hollywood talent agency WMA alumni, Overtime is an experiment in both sports and entertainment.
The league, which started its first competitive season last year, stream games live and post player highlights for Overtime’s millions of followers on Likes Instagram, tik tok Y Youtube. According to Overtime, the content he creates with teen athletes like Warren is seen online. more than 18 billion times by year.
Overtime has also increased over $100 million of investors including Jeff Bezos’ investment firmrapper Drake, a host of NBA stars including Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, and Silicon Valley venture capital firm 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 sponsors, including State Farm, Gatorade and trading card company Topps.
Aaron Ryan, the company’s president and commissioner and a former NBA marketing executive, says the league reinvests some of that money in its players.
“We cover the cost of food, lodging, 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 company, which is proportional to what all other Overtime employees receive.”
Ryan says the league is also offering each player $100,000 toward college tuition, should 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 salaries make them “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 be compared to most major college programs. 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 teen talent from around the world: Overtime’s current 27-player roster includes at least eight athletes who were previously five-star college recruits, according to the athletic.
Warren was one of those recruits. Signing with the extension was a snub offers from powerhouse athletic programs like Kansas, Maryland, Auburn, Georgetown and Oklahoma.
“Pretty much every deal you can think of,” he says with a smile.
Warren spends most of her time at Overtime’s 100,000-square-foot Atlanta facility, which is an all-in-one stadium, training center, dorm and boarding school.
An Overtime athletic trainer picks him up at 6:15 am most mornings to spend about 90 minutes in the gym, before heading to a three-hour basketball practice on the court with his teammates. After lunch, Warren says, players head to the Overtime classrooms until around 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] history.”
Warren says she especially enjoys a “financial literacy” class, which instructs student-athletes on the intricacies of signing professional contracts, questions to ask your agent and advisors, and how to practice responsible spending.
“They are teaching us who to have in your circle [of friends and family] and stuff, just keeping your circle small,” says Warren. “[Six-time NBA All-Star] Tony Parker came in and talked to us [and] told us it’s not about who you say ‘yes’ to, but who you say ‘no’ to.
After class, student-athletes typically head back to the gym or the basketball court for some more training, “and then the rest of the day is yours,” says Warren.
Without overtime, Warren would currently be finishing his junior year of high school and likely receiving intense recruiting offers from prominent college basketball programs. But if Warren feels like he’s missing out on something by choosing Overtime over college, he’s not saying so.
For now, he says, he’s focused on making it to the NBA. His high ratings on ranking websites like ESPN suggest he has a good chance of getting there. “My goal after the show is over is definitely to be recruited [in the NBA]”, he says. “That’s the goal of everyone here.”
Warren also says that he dreams of using his success in basketball to positively impact his community. He admires LeBron James, he says, for what James has done off the court, including opening a public elementary school in James’s hometown of Akron, Ohio, where students have the opportunity to get free tuition at the University of Akron.
“Not everyone does that, just him willing to give back and start a school for free,” says Warren.
Warren is already putting some of her overtime pay into a local co-ed AAU basketball team in her Arkansas hometown, helping support kids in second through sixth grades. Still, he says, he couldn’t resist at least one flashy purchase with his new income, and had always dreamed of owning a Dodge Charger.
“That actually came true. So, I was blessed for that to happen,” he says.
Warren says she is aware that taking such an untraditional path to pursue a lifelong dream can be incredibly risky. There’s no guarantee that Overtime will give you a better chance of impressing NBA scouts than playing in college or in the NBA’s developmental G League.
“You can see overtime as a risk, or you can see it as an opportunity,” he says. “This is the opportunity I chose, and it’s the one I’m going to live with, and now I’m at peace.”
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