Should High School-Age Basketball Players Be Able to Get Paid?

Should High School-Age Basketball Players Be Able to Get Paid?

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Starting on March 18, some of the best college athletes in the world will be competing in the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament. Will you be watching and cheering it this year?

Despite the millions of people who will be watching March Madness around the globe and the millions in revenue made by colleges, the athletes passing, rebounding and shooting in the games will not receive any pay for their efforts (although many do receive financial scholarships).

This month, the sports media company Overtime announced that it was starting a new basketball league for up-and-coming elite high school prospects, providing $100,000 salaries to skip college. Would you want to play in the new league — or do you think a college basketball experience is more valuable?

In “A New League’s Shot at the N.C.A.A.: $100,000 Salaries for High School Players” Kevin Draper writes:

A new basketball league backed by a sports media company is entering the intensifying debate over whether student-athletes should be paid, by starting a venture offering high school basketball players $100,000 salaries to skip college.

The league, Overtime Elite, formed under the auspices of the sports media company Overtime, would compete directly with the N.C.A.A. for the nation’s top high school boys by employing about 30 of them, who would circumvent the behemoth of college sports.

Overtime will offer each athlete, some as young as 16, a minimum of $100,000 annually, as well as a signing bonus and a small number of shares in Overtime’s larger business. The company will also provide health and disability insurance, and set aside $100,000 in college scholarship money for each player — in case any decide not to pursue basketball professionally.

The trade-off is major: The players who accept the deal will forfeit their ability to play high school or college basketball.

“People have been saying things need to change, and we are the ones changing it,” said Dan Porter, the chief executive of Overtime.

Overtime is diving into an argument that has roiled American sports for generations — whether it’s appropriate for pro sports leagues to lure young athletes out of high school and college with big checks, or for colleges to exploit the talents of athletes for big money without compensating them beyond attendance costs.

Since the 2006 draft, players have not been able to go directly to the N.B.A. after high school — they do not become eligible to be drafted until the year they turn 19 or at least one N.B.A. season after their high school graduation year.

For decades, the N.C.A.A.’s rules on amateurism, now under challenge in courts and in state legislatures, have held back a swell of money from flooding toward young elite athletes. The system has always had fissures, and they have grown in recent years as federal and state lawmakers and the N.C.A.A. have considered some changes to let athletes earn some more money.

The article continues:

The new league, Overtime Elite, most resembles soccer academies in Europe and elsewhere. The players, and possibly their families, will move to one city — Overtime says it is selecting between two choices — to live and train together. Overtime will hire education staffers to teach the athletes and help them get high school diplomas. A basketball operations division will include coaches and trainers and will be led by Brandon Williams, the former N.B.A. player who was also previously a front office executive for the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings. The commissioner is Aaron Ryan, a former longtime N.B.A. league office executive.

No players have been signed yet — so as not to ruin their eligibility during the current high school basketball season. But Porter and Zack Weiner, Overtime’s president, are confident that many of the top players ages 16 to 18 will join.

“We think our system will be amazing for their basketball development,” Weiner said. “Will every single player make the N.B.A.? Maybe not every single one of them, but the large majority will become professionals.”

But there are almost as many risks as there are benefits for the young athletes. Most start-up professional sports leagues, no matter how innovative, fail. Overtime Elite will require tens of millions of dollars to operate on the scale its founders envision, but if it does not succeed, its athletes could be left with nowhere to play.

“We are genuine in really investing in hiring really serious and legitimate people to run every aspect of the company,” Porter said. “I don’t want to mess around with kids’ lives. I don’t want people to mess around with my kids’ lives. There is a moral obligation that goes with that.”

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • What’s your reaction to the new league? Should high school-age basketball players be able to get paid? Why or why not?

  • Do you think Overtime Elite is a needed career pathway for young stars given the current N.C.A.A. and N.B.A. rules, prohibiting college athletes from receiving compensation beyond attendance costs and preventing high school students from going directly to the N.B.A. after graduation?

  • What do you see as the possible advantages and disadvantages of joining the league for elite teenage basketball players? If you were a top teenage basketball player, do you think playing in the Overtime league would be worthwhile?

  • The N.B.A. star Carmelo Anthony, an Overtime investor and member of its board of directors, says that the new league is not trying to “disrupt” N.C.A.A. basketball, but instead “to give these kids opportunities because they are taking control of their own brands and what they do, and social media becoming so powerful. Why not embrace that?” Do you agree with his argument? By competing directly with the N.C.A.A. for the nation’s top high school boys, do you think Overtime Elite will hurt college basketball?

  • Overtime faces several big challenges, such as persuading enough elite players to join its league and enough consumers to watch high school basketball. Which hurdle do you think is more significant? Do you think the league will succeed? Why or why not? Would you watch its games?