- Zion Williamson is widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
- According to a report, before the draft, sneaker companies could engage in a massive bidding war for Williamson.
- It’s unclear what Williamson could get in a deal, but some think it could rival LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the richest sneaker deal for an NBA rookie.
Zion Williamson’s college career presumably ended on Sunday when Duke lost to Michigan State in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Williamson, the best player in college basketball all year, is widely regarded as the top prospect and No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA draft.
According to ESPN’s sneaker expert Nick DePaula, in the coming months, as Williamson prepares for the draft, there will be a massive bidding war among sneaker companies to sign Williamson for a signature shoe.
“In my lifetime, I think it’s going to be the biggest bidding war ever done,” Sonny Vaccaro, a famed former marketing executive with Nike, Adidas, Reebok, told DePaula. Vaccaro famously advocated Nike to sign Michael Jordan in 1984. He later encouraged Adidas to sign high school basketball stars like Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady as they entered the NBA.
“If Zion doesn’t change, I predict that he will be the first basketball athlete at 18 years old that the world is rooting for to become a billionaire. I say billionaire, very easily,” Vaccaro told DePaula. “He is going to have an opportunity to be the face of every company and every major corporation. He is the most marketable person I’ve seen, for a lot of different reasons.”
Though exact figures are hard to guess, DePaula suggested Williamson’s first sneaker deal could rival LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s as the richest for NBA rookies. James signed a seven-year, $US87 million contract with Nike, famously turning down a 10-year, $US100 million deal from Reebok that was presented to him on the spot. James now has a lifetime deal with Nike that’s expected to be worth more than $US1 billion.
Durant signed a seven-year, $US60 million with Nike after turning down a seven-year, $US70 million offer from Adidas.
According to DePaula, six companies could be major players for Williamson: Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma, and Anta.
According to DePaula, only nine players in NBA history had a signature shoe as rookies. There are 17 active players with signature shoes, but the number will grow next season with incoming rookies and signature shoes from Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell, according to DePaula.
Williamson is one of the most hyped prospects in NBA history, with some considering him the best prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012 or even James in 2003. His level of fame became evident in February when moments into a game against UNC, he slipped and tore through his shoe, injuring his knee. The moment became a national story with Nike even sending representatives out to Duke to find out why the shoe ripped.
The clock is ticking for the war. According to DePaula, people in the sneaker industry believe Williamson may have a deal before the May 14 draft lottery. Sneaker companies are so high on Williamson that few have concerns about his marketability, regardless of where he ends up in the draft.
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