Now that Duke has been eliminated from the NCAA tournament following a 68-67 loss to the Michigan State in the East Regional Finals, focus has shifted to the future of Duke’s star freshman Zion Williamson.
It’s a virtual lock that he will declare for the 2019 NBA Draft. After the devastating loss to MSU, the 18-year-old superstar wasn’t ready to commit to anything yet.
“I’m not going to make it official,” Williamson said, according to Yahoo Sports, saying he wanted to talk to his parents about it first.
But he added: “There’s obviously a high chance that I’m going to enter the draft.”
When he does, it’s a virtual lock he’ll be the No. 1 pick by whoever is lucky enough to have the ping pong balls bounce their way. The Knicks, Suns, and Cavaliers will have the best odds to land Williamson, given they have the three worst records in the NBA.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) March 31, 2019
That will be speculated on until the NBA Draft Lottery on May 14. What will also be the subject of interest and speculation is what kind of sneaker deal Williamson gets.
ESPN reported that 6 brands are in the Zion Willamson sweepstakes, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma and Anta.
The expectation is Williamson will sign a deal with one of them before the May 14 draft lottery.
Williamson, of course, has a history with Nike.
— HYPEBEAST (@HYPEBEAST) April 1, 2019
It made national news when he blew out his Nike shoe in a February 20 loss to North Carolina. He made a cut and literally ripped his Nike’s apart.
The play caused him to suffer a mild knee sprain and forced him to miss the next 5 games. He returned in time for the ACC tournament.
One rival shoe company, Puma, took a shot at Nike for the sneaker malfunction, tweeting, “Wouldn’t have happened in the Pumas.”
You can bet the next two months will see the sneaker wars heating up.
“In my lifetime, I think it’s going to be the biggest bidding war ever done,” former sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro told ESPN. “I would put them all on go.”
“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 added. “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.”
Legendary sports marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro on Zion Williamson: “He is the most marketable person I’ve seen”
— (((RealClayDade))) (@ClayDade) April 1, 2019
ESPN’s Nick DePaula notes that many insiders believe that Williamson could get the most lucrative sneaker deal for a rookie ever, ahead of LeBron James, who signed a 7-year $87 million deal with Nike in 2003 and Kevin Durant, who signed a $60 million deal with Nike in 2007.
Sources at multiple sneaker companies told DePaula that Williamson’s deal could reach the “astronomical” $100 million mark.
Many experts consider Williamson as the best NBA prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012 and expect him to make an immediate impact at the professional level.
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