Report: Zion Williamson Signed with Jordan over Bigger Puma, Li-Ning Offers

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2019

New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson smiles while sitting on the bench during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday, July 6, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
David Becker/Associated Press

Zion Williamson's five-year, $75 million endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand is the richest annual rookie shoe deal in NBA history, but as it turns out he left some money on the table.

According to ESPN's Nick DePaula, both Puma and Chinese company Li-Ning offered more money than the Jordan Brand to the New Orleans Pelicans star.

DePaula reported Li-Ning, which signed Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade to a lifetime deal last year, was willing to pay Williamson approximately $19 million per year. Meanwhile, DePaula noted Puma had been in the ballpark of $15 million annually with an additional $3 million per year available in bonuses.

Puma had been out of the basketball world for two decades before re-emerging onto the scene last year. Puma signed the top two picks in the 2018 NBA draft, Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, to announce its presence.

Per DePaula, Anta—which has Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson under a 10-year, $80 million deal—had prepared an "aggressive" offer for Williamson. The company's starting offer reportedly was $15 million per season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN previously reported that several competitors had made offers "well into the nine-figure range," with some eclipsing an average annual value of $10 million.

In the end, though, the 2019 top overall pick chose the Jordan Brand.

The partnership was a dream come true Williamson, via Wojnarowski:

"I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family. 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."

Though other companies may have brought more money to the table, Nike and Jordan control the basketball sneaker market. According to Forbes' Kurt Badenhausen, all three of the best-selling signature shoes in 2017 were Nike athletes. Michael Jordan owned the fifth spot.

The Jordan Brand is a subsidiary of Nike.

LeBron James' seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike in 2003 was the previous record for a rookie shoe deal. More recently, he signed a lifetime deal with Nike in December 2015 that business partner Maverick Carter told GQ's Mark Anthony Green is worth more than $1 billion.

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