Tracy McGrady bets millions on 1-on-1 basketball start-up OBL-Reuters

Tracy McGrady

Source: Ones Basketball League

This time, Tracy McGrady trusts her ideas.

The Hall of Famer basketball player funded real estate projects, supported a sports and entertainment agency, and partnered with cryptocurrency before the industry lost billions in value. Now McGrady is investing in his own company, the Ones Basketball League, or OBL, which will air in New York this weekend.

“I’ve always invested in other people’s ideas and perspectives,” McGrady told CNBC in an interview. “I never once trusted me. I don’t have the confidence to think I’ve had enough. I don’t trust my ideas or my decision -making when it comes to my point of view. ”

He added: “This is the first time I have confidence and I think I will succeed.”

McGrady, 43, self-funds OBL, an 18-plus league that travels to seven cities from April to July. It pairs players in a one-on-one game, a staple of the basketball playground. Imagine the Big 3 Ice Cube league, but with fewer players and no former NBA star.

McGrady will pay just under $ 10 million, in total, plus a $ 250,000 price tag for the future OBL champion. He partnered with longtime sports executive and former XFL president Jeff Pollack to help with operations. Pollack said the costs associated with the league are “insignificant” so far.

“That means we’re going to have the opportunity to grow this business and do it in a way that the economy, in the beginning, was very supportive of,” Pollack said.

McGrady wants to appeal to a mass Gen Z audience, i.e. those born after 1997. So, he thinks press and sponsorship costs will follow.

Action while there against OBL

Source: Ones Basketball League

Although new to OBL in the minor league sports scene, he has taught other novice leagues such as cornhole and bowling that attract appropriate audiences to the networks and believes OBL can do the same.

“That’s no disrespect to what these other things ESPN puts into their programming – it’s more entertaining,” McGrady told CNBC earlier this week at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan.

OBL has already found prominent media support. It has a digital distribution deal with Paramount-owned network Showtime that allows the network to stream OBL content on its YouTube channel as well as cross-promote.

The terms of this agreement were not disclosed, but OBL confirmed that it would split the ad revenue.

McGrady got the keys

Drafted in 1997 by the Toronto Raptors, McGrady played 16 seasons in the NBA, including a long season with the Houston Rockets, and earned more than $ 160 million, according to Spotrac, a website that tracks sports contracts. McGrady’s earnings included a $ 92 million contract with the Orlando Magic in 2000. His last season in the NBA was 2011-12.

He compared OBL to his time at Magic. It only lasted four seasons, but it was the beginning of seven consecutive All-Star appearances and McGrady’s transition to “a household name” in the NBA.

“I finally received the keys and I thrived on it [All-Star] player, “McGrady said.” I never saw myself as that kind of person. And I did not see [OBL] being like this. ”

OBL was launched in February. The league plays regional games with 32 players in seven cities, including New York and Los Angeles. Players who win regional games earn $ 10,000. The top three players in the games can compete for the maximum payout of $ 250,000.

Orlando Magic guard Tracy McGrady (1) hit the ball against Washington Wizards guard Rod Strickland in the second period of the game at the TD Waterhouse Center in Orlando, Oct. 31, 2000.

Tony Ranze | AFP | Getty Images

McGrady praised his two teenage sons for sparking his interest in one-on-one basketball. They don’t really watch live NBA or NCAA games, he said. “What they’re going to watch: YouTube, short-form content, highlights,” McGrady added.

McGrady was not naive about getting started. He expects OBL to be wrong and unlikely to earn early. McGrady and Pollack did not discuss the details of OBL’s plan to make money, but they hope they will eventually profit from licensing, sponsorship and box office deals, which will help create a return on investment for potential and sponsor.

“It’s going to come from the audience that we ultimately reach out to and engage with,” Pollack said. “We still have a long way to go.”

He added that OBL will eventually seek out investors, but at this stage “we want to make sure we have a clear understanding of what should be, and then we will plan how it will develop.”

OBL joins a crowded sports media landscape. Competitors include Drake and Jeff Bezos-backed media company Overtime. This media company runs Overtime Elite, or OTE – the league that pays $ 100,000 to high school students with established Gen Z.

Macroeconomic concerns, including inflation, threaten early growth. Asked about those factors, Pollack suggested that OBL is playing a long game.

“We’re going through tough economic times and it could get worse,” Pollack said. “But we’ll get past it at some point, and what we’ve all seen over the past two years is that consumers’ appetite for sports content isn’t as satisfying as it used to be.”

If OBL attracts its target audience to watch sports content on social media, McGrady plans to expand the business globally.

“I have the right team to make it happen,” he said. “I think we’ve identified a pattern where it’s entertaining.”

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