Bryson Warren is one of the few teens you’ll meet who has a high school job that pays a six-figure salary.
Warren, 17, is one of the first high school athletes to join Overtime Elite. This New York-based organization selects and pays some of the world’s best high school and teenager basketball players to play at its Atlanta academy.
At Overtime, the athletes take lessons and work for a diploma. They compete against other high school basketball teams from across the country and each other. They also provide each student-athlete with a base annual wage of at least $100,000, with on-court performance bonuses possibly putting that total past $1 million.
The appeal was evident for Warren, who grew up near Little Rock, Arkansas, and was listed by ESPN as the 14th greatest high school basketball player in the United States in his age group. He and the other 26 student-athletes at Overtime took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn big money as high school athletes while working toward an even more giant leap to the NBA.
Warren tells CNBC Make It that “not many 17-, 18-, and 19-year-olds can say they made at least $100K.” “We’re just getting a head start on life by playing the game we love,” says one player.
What is Overtime Elite, and how does it work?
Overtime is a sports and entertainment experiment founded in 2016 by Dan Porter and Zack Weiner, two Hollywood talent agency WMA alumni.
For Overtime’s millions of fans on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, the league, which began its inaugural competitive season last year, live streams games and posts player highlights. Overtime claims that the video it produces highlighting juvenile athletes like Warren is viewed more than 18 billion times per year on the internet.
Overtime has also garnered more than $100 million in funding from investors such as Jeff Bezos’ investment business, Drake, a slew of NBA stars – including Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony – and Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
The league declined to provide revenue figures to CNBC Make It but did say that it earns money through streaming video, retail sales, and sponsors, including State Farm, Gatorade, and Topps playing cards.
According to Aaron Ryan, the league reinvests some of that money, the company’s president, commissioner, and a former NBA marketing officer.
“First and foremost, we pay the cost of food, lodging, transportation, and any other costs related to participating in the program,” he explains. “But there’s also a performance bonus and stock in our company, comparable to what every other Overtime employee gets.”
According to Ryan, if a player chooses not to pursue the sport as a full-time career, the league will contribute $100,000 to their college tuition. Over time players will not be eligible to play collegiate basketball because of their pay, which constitutes “professional” athletes.
Overtime invested in a basketball operations team led by former Sacramento Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams that could compete with the best collegiate schools. Former NBA player and University of Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie leads the coaching staff, featuring former NBA player Ryan Gomes and former University of Virginia coach David Leitao.
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1Overtime can recruit outstanding teen talent from all over the world thanks to these names: According to The Athletic, Overtime’s current roster of 27 players includes at least eight athletes who were once five-star college recruits.
Warren was one of these newcomers. Overtime was able to turn off offers from athletic powerhouses such as Kansas, Maryland, Auburn, Georgetown, and Oklahoma.
With a smile, he says, “Almost any offer you can think of.”
A professional high school athlete’s day in the life
Warren spends most of his time at Overtime’s 100,000-square-foot Atlanta headquarters, which serves as an arena, training facility, dormitory, and boarding school.
Almost every morning at 6:15 a.m., he is picked up by an Overtime sports trainer to spend roughly 90 minutes in the gym before heading to a three-hour basketball session on the court with his colleagues. The athletes go into Overtime’s classrooms after lunch, according to Warren, until roughly 4 p.m.
Overtime’s academy is a fully accredited school with trained teachers, allowing student-athletes to receive high school degrees instead of GEDs and begin pursuing college-level courses. Warren describes the curriculum as “normal high school,” with “math, English, science or biology, social studies [and] history.”
Warren particularly appreciates a “financial literacy” program, which teaches student-athletes about the complexities of signing professional contracts, what questions to ask their agent and advisors, and how to spend responsibly.
“They’re educating us who to have in our circle [of friends and family] and stuff like that,” Warren explains. “[Six-time NBA All-Star]” says the player. Tony Parker visited us and told us, “It’s not about who you say ‘Yes’ to, it’s about who you say ‘No’ to.”
“The rest of the day is yours,” Warren says once the student-athletes return to the gym or the basketball court after class.
He’s pursuing his NBA goal.
If it weren’t for Overtime, Warren would be finishing his junior year of high school and receiving rigorous recruitment pitches from major college basketball programs. On the other hand, Warren isn’t letting on if he thinks he’s missing out by opting for Overtime over college.
He claims he’s focused on making it to the NBA for the time being. His strong rankings on sites like ESPN suggest he has a decent chance of making it. “Once the program is through, my only ambition is to get drafted [in the NBA],” he says. “It’s everyone’s objective here,” says the narrator.
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Warren also hopes to use his basketball success to help others in his community. He admires LeBron James for his achievements off the court, including building a public primary school in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio, where children can earn free tuition to the University of Akron.
“Not everyone does that,” Warren recalls, “but he was eager to give back and build a school for free.”
Warren is already donating a portion of his Overtime pay to a local co-ed AAU basketball team in his homeland of Arkansas, where he supports children in grades 2 through 6. Despite this, he claims he couldn’t resist making at least one flashy buy with his newfound wealth, and he’d always wanted a Dodge Charger.
“It actually happened. “I was just lucky that that happened,” he explains.
Warren acknowledges that adopting such an unconventional path to pursue a lifelong passion might be dangerous. Overtime has no guarantee that it will help him impress NBA scouts more than playing in college or the NBA’s developmental G League.
“You may look at Overtime as a risk or an opportunity,” he explains. “This is the opportunity I selected, and it’s the one I’ll live with for the rest of my life. I’m at peace now.”