Zion Williamson Signs Biggest NBA Rookie Sneaker Deal Since LeBron
If Zion Williamson is, in fact, going to be the NBA’s next big sensation, he picked an appropriate shoe brand to help him make that happen off the court. On Tuesday, the No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019 draft announced on Instagram that he would sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand.
According to Forbes’ Adam Zagoria, Zion’s deal, which was negotiated by his representatives at Creative Artists Agency, is worth $75 million over seven years, making it the richest sneaker deal for a rookie since LeBron James signed with Nike out of high school in 2003. Zion, though, will earn more per year ($15 million) than LeBron did during his initial seven-year, $90 million deal with the Swoosh—making the Duke product's terms the richest in average annual value ever awarded to an NBA rookie.
"I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson said in a statement. "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."
Per ESPN’s Nick DePaula, Zion and his family visited Beaverton, Oregon, for a tour of Nike’s headquarters—including a look at sneaker mock-ups and potential apparel—on June 10, 11 days before the draft. His announcement on Tuesday reportedly preceded Jordan Brand’s internal announcement of the signing.
"Zion's incredible determination, character and play are inspiring," Michael Jordan said in a statement. "He's an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would 'shock the world,' and asked us to believe him. We do."
Zion joins a roster at Jordan Brand that currently features signature sneakers for Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, along with endorsements from LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo and Kemba Walker. Beyond athletes, Jordan Brand is also endorsed by stars in the NFL (Dez Bryant, Earl Thomas, Michael Crabtree, Jalen Ramsey, Golden Tate and Melvin Ingram) and MLB (Mookie Betts, Manny Machado, C.C. Sabathia and David Price), as well as cultural influencers like Drake, Spike Lee and Eminem.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.