As the NBA world ponders what’s next in an era of increasing player power, Zion Williamson’s shoe deal with Jordan Brand could serve as a worst-case scenario.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Williamson partnered with Jordan Brand to create his first signature shoe. Adam Zagoria reported the deal was worth $75 million over seven years, the second-biggest shoe deal ever for a rookie, behind only LeBron James. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday reported that the deal extends five years, making it the richest shoe deal for a rookie in NBA history.
ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that other companies were offering deals worth over $10 million annually, while The Action Network’s Darren Rovell reported that Williamson turned down more money from other companies.
Williamson has yet to suit up for a real game for the New Orleans Pelicans, who unexpectedly landed the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and took the Duke superstar. Williamson made a brief appearance at Summer League in Las Vegas but was shut down after one game with knee soreness.
While it will sound dramatic — and there is nothing to suggest that Williamson has an exit from New Orleans on his mind — in today’s NBA, the Pelicans may now be on the clock. Williamson’s shoe deal could be a reason.
The next step in the player-empowerment era
This NBA season saw players take their futures into their hands like never before. Anthony Davis requested a trade with over a year left on his contract. Months later, Paul George requested a trade from the Oklahoma City Thunder with at least two full years left on his deal.
Elsewhere, superstars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler took less money to join other teams in free agency. Leonard signed just a three-year deal with an opt-out after the second year with the Los Angeles Clippers. He could dip his toes back into free agency in two years.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote that the NBA is “reckoning post-Kawhi with what the endgame of player empowerment might look like.” Lowe wondered if players could choose to gambl