Zion Williamson is about to get paid.
The 6 ft 7 utility out of North Carolina has started a bidding war that’s rumoured to exceed $10 million per year, and will likely make him one of the three highest paid rookies of all time (joining LeBron James and Kevin Durant). But with talent so explosive that he’s literally blowing out PG2.5s, which sneaker brand is best equipped to deal with this once-in-a-generation talent?
We crunched the numbers.
Soft Paws. Hard Wood.
The Big Cat made some huge moves throughout the 2018-19 NBA season. Installing Jay Z at the helm, PUMA Hoops returned to the hardwood after a 20-year hiatus, clawing its way back with a series of high-profile signings, including Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton and Zhaire Smith.
Yes, PUMA have proven more than willing to open up their wallets for young talent, and with the combination of provocative marketing campaigns, Detroit Pistons Bad Boy retros, and the arrival of their first silhouette in nearly two decades (the Clyde Court Disrupt), the Big Cat may be the perfect fit for Zion to build a bold new legacy and rival some of the more established legacy brands.
A King in the North, A Zion in the South
New Balance was the perfect fit for Kawhi Leonard. The two quiet personalities constantly produce methodical, metronomic brilliance. Walking away from a $22 million deal with Nike, Kawhi inked a deal with New Balance that would see the arrival of the OMN1S, one of the most inspired silhouettes of 2019. The ‘Klaw’ motif took storytelling to new heights in 2019, proving NB’s aptitude for narrative (that shotalso helped).
Fresh off inking a deal with Darius Bazley, New Balance are poised to make some big moves during the off-season. The brand announced a 12-year plan to rise through the sneaker ranks, ideally positioning itself behind Nike and adidas with a spike in revenue from $4.5 billion to $7 billion by 2023.
Our only concern?
Can New Balance bring enough noise for Zion?
Shoot up the Station
Who knows, maybe Zion wants to be embroiled in an intractable family controversy. Maybe Zion’s so salty about signing with the New Orleans Pelicans that he wants to bring America’s hysterical media contingent to the sleepy state of Louisiana.
Indeed, it doesn’t get much more TMZ than LaVar Ball and the Big Baller Brand.
Regrettable tattoos, overpriced shoes, a mixtape as nasty as Lonzo’s jump shot, a solid F grade, from the Better Business Bureau, an FBI investigation, and the alleged siphoning of over $1.5 million – signing a sneaker deal with BBB will undoubtedly put the New Orleans Pelicans on the map regardless of whether Anthony Davis sticks around or not ...
Under Armour’s sneaker deal with Philly’s nuclear talent Joel Embiid proves that putting pen to paper means more than just on-court drip. Symbolic of the entrepreneurial spirit of startup sneaker brands, Under Armour inked a five-year deal with the 7ft Cameroonian, linking the deal to basketball initiates in his hometown and Philadelphia. Signing with Under Armour would be conducive to the current climate of personal narrative and legacy over cash (the brand surprised both PUMA and New Balance by landing Embiid).
With Embiid boasting a huge social media following, Under Armour showed us what can be done by empowering a bold personality without guardrails.
Inking the uniquely talented Zion would obviously be the brand’s biggest steal yet.
Joining the Legacy – Nike and Jordan Brand
Why not join sneaker royalty? The Jordan Brand combined with Nike for one of their hottest years in a decade during the 2018-19 season, inviting names like Travis Scott and Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo for visionary looks at new and established silhouettes.
Retina-burning Nike Kyrie 5 collaborations, meteoric PG3s, ferocious Russell Westbrook Zer0.2 packaging and, of course, the perpetual LeBron James drip, the economic flex and storytelling prowess exists on an entirely different hemisphere to the other brands.
With endless lifestyle capacity and damn deep pockets, Nike and the Jordan Brand have the means to literally blow the soles off Zion’s feet, but one question will always linger: is the Swoosh a little too safe for Zion?
The WTF Scenario
There’s plenty of wildcard scenarios for Zion.
Converse have returned to the market with Tinker Hatfield’s All Star Pro BB, it’s been a million years since the somewhat disturbing heights of Kobe Bryant’s adidas years, and a hell of a lot of money is reportedly on the table from Chinese brands.
But regardless of where Zion ends up (honestly, the man could play in bare feet), you can rest assured he’ll be stomping the competition over at New Orleans.