Forget Zion Williamson the player for a second.
No one has entered the NBA draft as a more marketable player — wherever the NBA Draft Lottery puts him — since maybe LeBron James. Williamson was an Instagram star in the basketball world who has broken out into the general consciousness of casual American sports fan in a way few college athletes in any sport ever do.
What that means is Williamson is going to get PAID. Williamson has yet to pick an agent, but companies are already lining up what potentially could be the most lucrative offers to a rookie NBA player ever. Nick DePaula of ESPN has the details:
In fact, many in the sneaker industry expect that Williamson’s eventual deal will make him one of the three highest-paid rookie sneaker endorsers ever, joining the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
“In my lifetime, I think it’s going to be the biggest bidding war ever done,” said Sonny Vaccaro, the famed former marketing executive with Nike, Adidas and Reebok. “I would put them all on go.”
LeBron’s rookie shoe contract was $87 million over seven years. Kevin Durant’s deal was seven years, $60 million. If Williamson is in that ballpark, his shoe deal will pay him far more than his rookie contract with whatever team wins the draft lottery.
Williamson has worn Nike’s at Duke — he famously blew out a pair of Paul George‘s Nike PG 2.5 signature shoe, which sidelined him for a six games, when he returned he was wearing Nike’s Kyrie Irving 4 (but reinforced).
But Nike will not be alone in bidding for Williamson. Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma, and Chinese brand Anta (Klay Thompson wears those) are all expected to make offers. It means Williamson is going to get a signature shoe deal with his rookie contract, something almost unheard of in today’s shoe game.
But Williamson is an almost unheard of kind of player.
Which is why he’s going to get PAID.