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

Tracy McGrady

Source: One’s Basketball League

This time, Tracy McGrady trusts her ideas.

Basketball Hall of Fame funded real estate projects, supported a sport and entertainment agency, and engaged in a cryptocurrency partnership before sector lost billions worth. Now, McGrady is investing in his company, Ones Basketball League, or OBL, which will premiere him in New York this weekend.

“I’ve always invested in other people’s ideas and vision,” McGrady told CNBC in an interview. “I never trusted mine. I didn’t have the confidence to think mine was good enough. I didn’t trust my ideas or decision making when it came to my vision.”

He added: “This is the first time I’ve really trusted and believed I could do it.”

McGrady, 43, self-finances OBL, a league for the over 18s that shoots in seven cities from April to July. Match players in one-on-one matches, a staple of backyard basketball. He envisions Ice Cube’s Big 3 League, but with fewer players and no former NBA stars.

McGrady will pay just under $ 10 million, including the $ 250,000 prize for the eventual OBL champion. He partnered with longtime sports executive and former XFL president Jeff Pollack to help with operations. Pollack says the costs associated with the championship “are not significant” so far.

“This means that we will have the opportunity to grow this business and do it in a way that the economy is quite favorable at first,” Pollack said.

McGrady wants to attract a mass audience of Generation Z, ie those born after 1997. Then, he believes media and sponsorship spending will follow.

Action during an OBL match

Source: One’s Basketball League

Although OBL is new to the minor league sports scene, it has pointed to other amateur leagues such as cornhole and bowling that appeal to niche audiences on the nets and believe that OBL can do the same.

“No disrespect for what these other things ESPN are putting into their programming – this is more fun,” McGrady told CNBC earlier this week at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan.

OBL has already found a major media supporter. It has reached a digital distribution agreement BasicOwned Showtime network which allows the network to show OBL content on their YouTube channel and cross promotions.

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

McGrady takes the keys

Drafted in 1997 by the Toronto Raptors, McGrady played 16 seasons in the NBA, including an extended stint with the Houston Rockets, and earned over $ 160 million, according to Spotrac, a website that keeps track of sports contracts. McGrady’s earnings include a $ 92 million deal with the Orlando Magic in 2000. His last NBA season was 2011-12.

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

“I was finally given the keys and I blossomed into this [All-Star] player, “said McGrady.” I didn’t see myself being that kind of guy. And I have not seen [OBL] be this “.

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

Orlando Magic guard Tracy McGrady (1) slams the ball past Washington Wizards guard Rod Strickland during the second period of play at the TD Waterhouse Center in Orlando, October 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 NBA or NCAA games live, she said. “What they’ll watch: YouTube, short-form content, highlights,” added McGrady.

McGrady is not naive about the start-up. He expects OBL to have hiccups and profitability will initially be unlikely. McGrady and Pollack haven’t discussed the details of OBL’s plan to make money, but they expect to profit from licensing, sponsorship and ticketing deals, which would help create a return on investment for potential sponsors.

“It will come from the audience that we eventually reach out and engage,” Pollack said. “We have a long way to go.”

He added that OBL will eventually look for investors, but at this stage “we want to make sure we clearly understand what it should be, and then plan how to make it grow.”

OBL joins a crowded sports media landscape. Competitors include Drake and Jeff BezosOvertime-backed media company. This media company operates Overtime Elite, or OTE, the league that pays high schoolers $ 100,000 with an established following of Gen Z.

Macroeconomic concerns, including inflation, threaten early growth. When asked about these factors, Pollack suggested that OBL is playing the long game.

“We are in a difficult economic time and it could get worse,” Pollack said. “But we’ll get out of it at some point, and what we’ve all seen over the past couple of years is that consumers’ appetite for sports content is as insatiable as it has ever been.”

Should OBL entice its target audience to watch social media sports content, McGrady plans to grow the company globally.

“I have the right team to make it happen,” he said. “I think we’ve identified a model where it’s a lot of fun.”