Atlanta – If you walk around Atlantic Station, you might miss it. Tucked away next to shops and restaurants, beneath offices, is a glimpse of what a new league hopes will be part of the future of professional basketball. That includes players who could be in high school earning six-figure salaries.
“Working with some of the best athletes in the world to prepare for life in and beyond basketball is central to our mission,” said Aaron Ryan, President and Commissioner of Overtime Elite.
Overtime Elite, based in a facility next to Atlantic Station, is a new professional basketball league for players ages 16-20. They recruited for their first season players from all over the country and some international players. That includes former Newton High School player TJ Clark, who gave up his high school season to participate.
“When I first heard about it, I was in class,” Clark said. “As soon as I got here I knew I made the right decision. Even my mum said it lit a light bulb in me.”
Clark is one of 27 players participating in this first season, which began in late 2021. They are divided into three teams, and they compete against each other as well as prep schools and top high schools across the country. They are paid at least $100,000 a year, according to Overtime Elite, and also enjoy other benefits, including equity in the new league.
There’s a trade-off – since players get paid, they lose their ability to play college basketball down the line.
“What is better [about this path versus the traditional one] it’s that there are options,” Ryan said. “The reality is that while it’s innovative in the United States, it’s not revolutionary in the rest of the world. Whether you are a music prodigy, a tennis player, a golfer or an international soccer player for sure. It may not be for everyone, it should definitely be an option for those who want to take it.”
Overtime Elite says they will give players scholarships if they choose to go this route after their playing career.
As for Clark, he hopes this experience will help him and accelerate his journey to the NBA.
“Instead of jogging, I run,” Clark said.
The NBA is the ultimate goal for these players, and it may not be long before an Overtime Elite alum is playing on that stage. Point guard Jean Montero is being slated by some as a possible first-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
The first season of Overtime Elite ends in early March. Home games are played at Atlantic Station, where fans can purchase tickets and attend. A match schedule and ticket information can be found on the Overtime Elite website.