Zion Williamson stomped Aussie Ben Simmons to sign the second-richest rookie shoe deal in NBA history – despite dropping $10 million.
Nike is going all out for NBA No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson after reaching a sneaker endorsement deal with the New Orleans Pelicans star.
It’s an extraordinary two-pronged win for the apparel giant after the company lost $2 billion in February when Williamson shredded his Duke Nike sneaker and injured his knee.
According to reports, Williamson also signed with Nike for less money than he was offered by a rival brand, giving up $10 million.
According to reports released Wednesday, Williamson’s deal with Nike’s Jordan brand is worth $107 million ($75 million) over four years.
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It’s the biggest rookie shoe endorsement deal signed in the NBA since LeBron James signed with Nike in 2003 for $87 million.
That puts Williamson above Kevin Durant’s seven-year, $60 million contract when he was picked up by the SuperSonics in 2007.
It also eclipses Ben Simmons’ rookie shoe endorsement deal with Nike where the Aussie signed a five-year deal worth $20m guaranteed with performance clauses pushing the deal to a total of $40 million.
This ends what was predicted earlier this year to be the biggest bidding war for this generation of athletes.
The man who first signed NBA GOAT Michael Jordan to Nike, company executive Sonny Vaccaro said in April that Williamson’s rookie shoe deal would be the biggest bidding war of his life.
He said after the 2019 NBA draft that Williamson’s shoe deal would have been worth $100 million had he been selected by a big-market franchise like the New York Knocks or the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although he did not reach those heights, it was reported that up to seven companies were all looking to sign Williamson.
Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma and Anta and a Chinese company were all linked with offers to Williamson.
Fear of a rival ripping it off and using the image of its blown shoe at Duke has reportedly forced Nike to offer its richest shoe offering in 16 years.
The company’s campaign was also boosted by the extraordinary effort it was able to put into developing a bespoke shoe for Williamson at Duke following his previous blow.
Ultimately, it was Williamson’s affinity for the Jordan brand and his weakness for the iconic basketball player himself that sealed the deal.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the Jordan Brand family,” said Williamson, who was picked first in the June draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Ever since I was a kid, I had dreamed of getting into the league and having the type of impact on the game that Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes that I admired, and I really cannot express how happy and excited I am for this trip.
Jordan himself, a six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls and now owner of the Charlotte Hornets, praised Williamson’s “incredible determination, character and play.”
“He is a critical piece of new talent that will help lead the brand into the future,” Jordan said. “He told us he would ‘shock the world’ and asked us to believe him. We do.”
— with AFP