Report: Zion Williamson Shoe Deal Expected to Reach $100M in Major Bidding War

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the second half against the Michigan State Spartans during the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional Final at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

Sixteen years ago, LeBron James sparked the biggest bidding war the shoe game had ever seen, eventually inking a $90 million contract with Nike.

Zion Williamson, who spent much of his Duke career garnering comparisons to James, may be set to eclipse him.

Nick DePaula of ESPN reported that some believe Williamson's first shoe contract could be over $100 million.

"In my lifetime, I think it's going to be the biggest bidding war ever done," said Sonny Vaccaro, a legendary former shoe executive who signed Michael Jordan to Nike in 1984. "I would put them all on go."

No rookie shoe contract has eclipsed the $90 million mark James set in 2003. In fact, LeBron took less money to sign with Nike over a strong number from Reebok, though the final numbers on that deal are not known.

There have been rumors of potentially enormous shoe contracts—Andrew Wiggins was reportedly looking at $180 million from Adidas coming out of high school—but none have come to fruition. Wiggins wound up signing an endorsement deal with the company worth around $12 million to $13 million per year coming out of college.

It's possible estimates in this case will be wildly inflated again, but Williamson's overall brand value is the highest of any college basketball player in recent memory. He exceeded anyone's wildest expectations, setting himself up as the clear-cut No. 1 pick in June's draft and going down as one of the most exciting players in college hoops history.

There's no question that Williamson will wind up making eight figures per year on his first shoe deal. But given the shaky results of some recent major shoe contracts—Derrick Rose and James Harden have both signed huge Adidas contracts that have not resulted in gangbuster sales—the market could be more tepid than Vaccaro expects.

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