Jalen Lewis becomes youngest pro basketball player in American history

Jun 24, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; A detail shot of the new NBA basketball ball during the NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top basketball recruits in the high school class of 2023, Jalen Lewis, will forgo college, and is instead signing a $1 million deal to join Overtime Elite, making him the youngest American to ever become a pro basketball player at age 16.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the news of Lewis’ decision, the details of his lucrative contract, and the big-time college basketball programs who were vying for his services:

According to Overtime Elite’s official website, it’s a startup league that will be based in Atlanta and allow aspiring pros, as young as rising juniors in high school, to optimize their chances of making it to the NBA or at least playing professionally.

Former UConn Huskies national title-winning coach and NBA veteran Kevin Ollie is the head coach of Overtime Elite, which already has several top prospects signed on.

Overtime Elite features schooling with very small class sizes that trains its athletes in life skills and finances as well as traditional academics. The league offers full medical coverage for its players, and a minimum salary of $100,000.

ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony weighed in on the implications of Lewis’ signing:

All this comes on the heels of the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. Some of the best recruits in the country may follow the lead of Lewis and others in Overtime Elite in the coming years and just go pro as soon as possible.

Here’s a look at some of Lewis’ highlights from a showcase that was several months back:

Lewis is rated as the 12th-best player in the 2023 class, per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and the No. 2 center. He hails from Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California.

There’s obvious appeal to this new Overtime Elite league, and it’s backed by $80 million in funding from venture capitalists, with chief sponsors including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and NBA players Devin Booker, Trae Young and Pau Gasol.

Some players in recent years have tried their hand at playing overseas professionally rather than dealing with the NCAA.

The NBA G League just debuted a G League Ignite team this past season, which featured projected high lottery picks in Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga. G League Ignite plays exhibition games as part of a team with players who are projected to be premier NBA Draft prospects.