A new one-on-one basketball league traveling the U.S. bills itself as "'American Idol' for sports.”
Only instead of Simon Cowell finding America's next famous singer, Hall of Fame former NBA player Tracy McGrady hopes to discover the next basketball great with his league nicknamed “The Ones,” or OBL.
Play began in April and runs through July, with the ultimate winner taking home a quarter million of T-Mac’s money in Las Vegas. Houston and New York have already held tournaments, and Los Angeles will host this month's event. The two-day tournament over a weekend cuts a roster of 32 players down to eight, with one lucky contender winning $10,000 on the second day.
"There's a lot of guys out there that have the same ability to play on the NBA level; they just can’t adapt to certain roles," McGrady, seven-time NBA All-Star, told Yahoo Finance in an interview (video above). "So the untapped talent that is out there probably was told they’re not good enough; they can’t do this; they can’t do that — I’m providing the platform.”
A league 'custom-made' for Generation Z
Jeffrey Pollack, former president of the XFL minor football league, is working with McGrady as a strategic adviser on the league, which anybody can apply to participate in.
“This is our pilot season if you will, and we’re really curating the players for each city to make sure we have the right ingredients to do the most important thing this season," Pollack said, "which is prove out and test Tracy’s brilliant, competitive thesis.”
McGrady says that his two teenage sons partially inspired the idea because they prefer to watch highlights or social media clips rather than entire games.
“Gen Z consumes sports very differently than any other generation," Pollack said. "They’re focused on short, digital, snackable content. They put personalities and players before teams and OBL is custom made for that generation.”
While fans can buy tickets to the events on the league website, you can’t yet see the OBL on network television.
"We're experimenting with digital and social content to understand what is the right note to hit," Pollack noted.
Taking a page out of Formula 1's recent U.S. success with its hit Netflix documentary "Drive to Survive," McGrady adds: “We just announced a deal with Showtime where they’re going to co-produce with us an all access behind the scenes documentary about this proof of concept season, but so far the results are really positive.”
The OBL has competition in Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 "Big 3" league, which includes former NBA players. There’s also the upstart Overtime Elite League, banked in part by rapper Drake, which pays six-figure salaries to high school players who play traditional five-on-five basketball.
McGrady contends his platform stands out from the others, though.
"We’re adding another dynamic to it, giving a bigger platform and we’re trying to make it global and broaden this out, but it’s good to have competition,” he said.
McGrady was a dominant isolation player in his day, twice winning the scoring title, averaging 32 points per game in 2002 with the Orlando Magic. He hopes to one day have household names going one-on-one in the OBL, but for now his dream matchup would be Michael Jordan vs. the late Kobe Bryant.
"I would pay big money to see that, there’s no greater two players that kind of mirror each other than those two," he added.
Of today’s stars, T-Mac would take Golden State Warriors star shooter Steph Curry vs. enigmatic Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving. Both are “highly skilled, similar size and often compared,” he said.
And who does McGrady think would take home the winning prize?
“I think because of Kyrie’s skillset, that’s what he does, he’s a one-on-one type of basketball player, I’ll say Kyrie edges Steph,” McGrady said.
Just as "American Idol" turned Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood into global music sensations, OBL hopes to produce the next Kyrie and Steph.
"We want to identify the greatest one-on-one basketball player in our nation and then in turn, hopefully in three or four years, who’s the greatest player globally," McGrady said.
Dave is an anchor for Yahoo Finance Live.