Zion Williamson has yet to sign a shoe deal, and fans have been reading into every shoe choice the 19-year-old has made.
Rumors have circulated for months about which company might sponsor the New Orleans Pelican rookie, who could land a record-breaking nine-figure deal, according to industry analysts.
Nike has long been thought of as the frontrunner to land the baller. In February, while still a Duke University star, Williamson made national news when his Nike sneaker blew out on the court during a game against rival North Carolina.
Williamson was spotted working out in Nike Kyrie 4s in May and wore the Swoosh at Summer League before suffering a bruised knee. Puma entered the conversation when the star was spotted in a pair of the brand’s kicks at a July 6 Summer League game. A TMZ report said last week that Williamson has narrowed his choices to Nike or Puma. (FN has reached out to Nike and Puma for comment.)
But can fans really discern where Williamson is headed by eyeing the logos on his shoes? According to the NPD Group Inc.’s senior sports industry analyst Matt Powell, they can’t.
“I don’t think what he wore in the Summer League has anything to do with who he signs with. The decision will be all about the money,” Powell told FN. “I still believe one of the Chinese brands will be a contender. The Chinese brands want to take back market share they lost to Nike and Adidas.”
Most of the other players in the 2019 NBA Draft class have already landed deals, which begs the question: What’s taking Williamson so long?
“It’s unique to have someone at his level. Sneaker brands realize that he can represent the future of the league. Arguably, he’s the [next] LeBron James,” DMA United CEO Marc Beckman said ahead of the draft. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something happen in the short term, but the reality is no matter where he ends up, there’s going to be plenty of time to package him.”
Although there’s still speculation that the athlete could land a record-high deal, he may have cost himself some dollars by not signing before the draft.
“The shoe deal is the easiest thing in the world to do, it should have been done,” famed sports marketing exec Sonny Vaccaro told FN in June ahead of the draft. “The onus should have been on the buyers and now it’s on the seller. They’re still going to get a lot of money, but if I’m a shoe company I’m not the beggar now, you put [Williamson] back on his heels, which wouldn’t have happened if a deal [was] done beforehand.”
The situation could be further complicated by the fact a lawsuit alleging contract breach was filed in June against Williamson by Prime Sports Marketing LLC — a firm he signed with in April for representation in marketing deals. He left the company one month later to be represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Prime Sports Marketing LLC is seeking $100 million in punitive damages against Zion, CAA and two of the company’s employees. Williamson filed his own lawsuit to exit the five-year contract deal with Prime Sports Marketing LLC.
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