Famed former sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro expects Duke star Zion Williamson to be at the center of the biggest shoe bidding war in history after a sensational freshman season. Vaccaro expects Williamson to join LeBron James and Kevin Durant in signing one of the highest-paying rookie sneaker endorsement deals ever.
Vaccaro has spent time at Nike, Adidas and Reebok and expects all three sneaker giants to be in on the Williamson war.
"In my lifetime, I think it's going to be the biggest bidding war ever done," Vaccaro told ESPN. "I would put them all on go."
The 6'7", 285 pound sensation is expected to have a deal inked before the 2019 NBA draft lottery on May 14, when the draft order is set. Williamson has long been projected to go as the top pick in this year's draft.
James's deal was also done before the draft lottery that eventually landed him in Cleveland. James would instead sign with Nike a week later for a fully guaranteed $87 million over seven years, and now has a lifetime deal with the company. Durant signed his own seven-year deal with Nike for $60 million and re-signed with the brand in 2014.
Williamson could receive offers from as many as six brands, including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, New Balance, Puma and Anta. Vaccaro added that Williamson is the "most marketable person I've seen."
"If Zion doesn't change, I predict that he will be the first basketball athlete at 18 years old that the world is rooting for to become a billionaire. I say billionaire, very easily," Vaccaro said. "He is going to have an opportunity to be the face of every company and every major corporation. He is the most marketable person I've seen, for a lot of different reasons."
Vaccaro, 79, added that Williamson's impending deal feels reminiscient of when he helped lead Michael Jordan to Nike in 1984.
Williamson finished his freshman campaign at Duke averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game on 68% shooting from the field. His shoes were already a hot topic during the regular season when the forward injured his knee when he slipped and ripped one of his shoes–a pair of Nike PG 2.5's–during the Blue Devils' first loss to North Carolina.
Nike made Williamson modified sneakers for the rest of the season to ensure that there were no more malfunctions.