Top Sneaker Industry Players Are Going All In For Zion to Wear Their Logo

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Practice Day
Apr 5, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson accepts the Oscar Robertson Trophy during a press conference for the 2019 men's Final Four at US Bank Stadium. (Photo: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports)

Zion Williamson is poised to be the NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick if he declares his eligibility. He is also on his way to becoming a millionaire, if not even more. This is not only because of his exploits as the next best thing in basketball but also for the fact that there is a looming sneaker endorsement waiting for him even before he even plays his first NBA game. If this will go as planned, the Duke Blue Devil will join the ranks of LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the highest paid rookie sneaker endorser.

ESPN's Nick DePaula compared Williamson's current sneaker situation to James and Durant, who also found themselves in a similar predicament before their storied career in the NBA ever started. Even before Cleveland picked him as their saving grace, "King James" refused a deal with Reebok; instead, LeBron went on to sign 7-year, $87million deal with Nike. Durant, on the other hand, met with Adidas in 2009 and, just like James, turned down a 7-year, $70million agreement "loaded with an additional incentive bonus. "Durantula" chose Nike, "his longtime favorite brand" and inked a 7-year, $60million deal.

Williamson's case is a special one since the college standout will have to deal with not just two brands, but as many as six. These include perennial frontrunners Nike, Adidas, New Balance, Under Armour, Puma and Chinese brand Anta, whose logo is being represented by Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo, future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, Gordon Hayward, Luis Scola and even 8-time world champ Manny Pacquiao. A source also said that one company is willing to pay Williamson "$10million per year" to sign with them. DePaula's article also quoted former marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro, whose time in Nike saw Michael Jordan signing a contract worth $500,000 per year in 1984 and helped lure Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady to wear Adidas.

Vaccaro said that what's going on between Williamson and the shoe companies is "the biggest bidding war ever done" given that the latter has all the makings of a very "marketable person." He also sees Zion be the first basketball superstar at age 18 "to become a billionaire". These are all part and parcel of what Williamson can bring to the table to the future team. From his raw talent to dominate the game and rise above the rest, to ticket sales that makes people want to see what he's really made of, Zion can and will be the next chapter of the NBA.

It won't be a surprise to see Williamson's initials on a pair of sneakers during this timeline. This will toss him in the mix of 17 other NBA players who have their own signature kicks that will soon include MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo and Utah Jazz playmaker Donovan Mitchell. If he decides to sign with Nike, he will join James, Durant, Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and Paul George to have exclusive kicks, plus those that wear Kobe's line and the Jordan brand. Along this line, the world will just have to erase the game when Williamson's foot tore a PG 2.5 while driving through the basket.

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