ROSELLE, N.J. — On a recent Friday evening, Naasir Cunningham was back home in Latest Jersey doing what he does best: flying up and down a basketball court, deftly floating in baskets and hitting an array of jump shots from various angles.
Five months earlier, Cunningham had left his home in West Orange, N.J., and his friends on the Gill St. Bernard’s highschool in Gladstone, to affix the quasi-professional Extra time Elite league based in Atlanta. His parents moved to be near their son.
Cunningham, 17, a 6-foot-7 small forward, was now performing in a showcase at Roselle Catholic High School before a curious and wide-ranging crowd of several hundred that included N.B.A. agents, skilled scouts, college coaches, casual local fans and 13-year-old boys looking for his autograph. The sport was also livestreamed for the ring heads who couldn’t attend it.
In a move that speaks to each the appetite for live programming and the appeal of rising basketball stars like Cunningham, Extra time Elite has entered an agreement with Amazon Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming service, giving Prime Video exclusive streaming rights in america to twenty live games per season for the following three years.
Officials for the businesses declined to reveal the terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday. But the businesses said that Amazon had also made an investment in Extra time as a part of a recent funding round. “It looks rather a lot like a sports league does,” Dan Porter, chief executive of Extra time, said in an interview ahead of the announcement.
Live sports are “the one thing that hold a linear television bundle together they usually’re super invaluable,” Porter said. “Have a look at the success that Amazon is having with ‘Thursday Night Football’ and Apple goes to have with Major League Baseball. I feel that that’s the long run, and we wish to take part in that.”
Amazon, which claims it has greater than 200 million subscribers to Amazon Prime, already owns the rights to quite a few live sporting events, including in football, baseball, soccer and tennis, and has signaled interest within the N.B.A.
And because it targets an increasingly younger audience, Amazon is adding Extra time Elite, a six-team basketball league featuring top 16- to 20-year-old male players from around the globe. The league counts Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, amongst its investors.
Most of the league’s players hope they’ll wind up within the N.B.A., identical to Dominick Barlow, a 6-foot-10 forward from Dumont, N.J., who played for Extra time Elite last season and is now with the San Antonio Spurs. Among the many league’s current players are the 19-year-old twins Ausar and Amen Thompson, who’re each projected to be lottery picks in next 12 months’s N.B.A. draft.
When the Thompsons signed with the league for its inaugural season in 2021, they and the opposite players agreed to contracts price not less than $100,000 each. That, in turn, made them ineligible for faculty basketball.
Ahead of the league’s second season, Extra time modified course by allowing what it calls a scholarship option, whereby players don’t receives a commission but retain their college eligibility while still having the ability to earn income through endorsement deals, the identical way college athletes have been capable of do through so-called name, image and likeness deals.
Cunningham, in consultation along with his father, selected that option and continues to be being recruited by a slew of major men’s college programs, including Duke, Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas and Seton Hall.
Cunningham, speaking in an interview while nursing a sore ankle and eating a slice of pizza after a game, said he has more time to devote to his craft than he would have had at a conventional highschool. In that way, Extra time functions similarly to the European training academies that feed skilled club teams.
“The skill development, having the ability to play against top players each day, it’s like there’s no room for slacking, there’s no room to goof off,” Cunningham said. “You’re at all times going to be working, you’re at all times convalescing.”
Still, Extra time isn’t for everybody.
A 12 months ago, Efton Reid, a middle rated as a five-star recruit, turned down a six-figure offer in favor of attending Louisiana State since the latest skilled league planned to play against prep school opponents.
Reid’s mother, Maria, said in an interview on the time that he had already done that while at IMG Academy in Florida “and didn’t need to repeat one other 12 months playing against prep schools.” She added: “He desires to play against the following level college ball.”
Reid has since transferred to Gonzaga.
In August, the Michigan State commit Jeremy Fears reversed his original plan to play for Extra time and as a substitute will spend his senior season playing at Joliet West High School in Illinois along with his brother.
Back in Latest York and Latest Jersey, some coaches of high-profile prospects expressed concern about letting their players compete against the Extra time Elite teams, fearing they may be recruited to affix the league and thus leave their highschool teams. After all, nothing was stopping the league from reaching out to those players anyway.
Simeon Wilcher, a 6-foot-5 senior point guard at Roselle Catholic and an honors student, turned down what his father said was a high-six-figure offer from Extra time Elite in August 2021 because he preferred the more traditional highschool experience, including playing highschool basketball. Last 12 months, he helped lead the Lions to their fourth Latest Jersey Tournament of Champions title, beating D.J. Wagner, the No. 1 prospect in the category of 2023, and Camden High School in the ultimate. (Additionally they beat Cunningham and his Gill St. Bernard’s team along the way in which.)
Wilcher also wanted other advantages from highschool, like staying along with his friends and attending the massive events.
“You usually got to like the regular highschool stuff, like prom, graduation,” he said. “All of that is required, that’s memories that you just’ll never give you the option to get back.”
Still, Wilcher, who committed to North Carolina last fall, is earning endorsement money, his father, Sergio Wilcher, said, through various deals. It’s increasingly common for high-profile highschool basketball players to have agents representing them for name, image and likeness deals, but Wilcher doesn’t have one, his father said.
Jonathan Givony, an N.B.A. draft expert for ESPN, sat within the stands at Roselle Catholic taking notes on each player on a spreadsheet to organize for future N.B.A. mock drafts.
He said there may be a profit to Extra time Elite in that players who need to be future pros like Cunningham can devote themselves to their craft and find themselves playing in front of more fans more quickly.
“There is no such thing as a comparison between a public school and what O.T.E. has to supply when it comes to the platform that they provide, the national exposure, the competition that they play, the schedule,” he said.
Ross Perlstein and Owen Burns, 13-year-old fans from Livingston, N.J., didn’t really care which players competed for Extra time Elite or the highschool teams at Roselle Catholic. Burns wore a North Carolina jersey autographed by Roy Williams, its former coach, and asked Wilcher, Cunningham and a number of other other players so as to add their signatures.
“I feel like a whole lot of these guys are going to play overseas or within the N.B.A.,” Perlstein said, “so I feel like we’re watching what they’re becoming.”