Zion Williamson recently signed the richest annual rookie shoe deal in NBA history with Jordan Brand for $18M. Nike was not his only choice, and, in fact, it wasn't the highest-paying, either.
According to ESPN's Nick DePaula, Chinese shoe company Li-Ning had offered Zion $19 million per year and even created seven different sneakers decked out in Duke's colors as part of their original pitch.
NBA star Dwyane Wade is partnered with Li-Ning, and the brand has been successful in helping him spread his brand globally.
Puma was also on the table for Williamson, apparently set to offer $18M annually.
Despite the choices, he ultimately chose Jordan, in no small part thanks to the basketball legend himself.
“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," said Williamson. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to, and I really can’t express how happy and excited I am for this journey.”
Zion will make $75M over the next five years with Nike, an unprecedented contract for a guy who has yet to play a single NBA game. He is a humble, likable face that seems to be headed down a historic path. His fame has carried over well from Duke.
The bigger question is: how will his game hold up? For all the attention and money he is making, we have yet to see any real evidence that Zion will be a truly dominant force in the NBA. We can only hope...