Athletes like Zion Williamson rarely come around.
As one of the most sought out sneaker prospects since LeBron James, it came as no surprise that brands would shell out a reported $10M per year contract to land him.
Williamson’s sneaker recruitment has been one of the most interesting storylines this offseason. The No.1 pick's popularity and high-flying ability makes him a marketing dream in the social media age. This past Duke season alone saw the likes of former president Barack Obama, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Ken Griffey Jr. in attendance. He also sports four million Instagram followers. But things got shaky for any Nike partnership after Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain during a game against UNC, when he infamously broke out of his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker.
Williamson will become one of the more prominent faces on a Jordan Brand roster that includes stars Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul, newcomers Jayson Tatum and Rui Hachimura and WNBA players Asia Durr and Kia Nurse.
While his announcement is still fresh and new, the next thing to debate is what sneaker the phenom will wear when he makes his official NBA debut. The Crossover broke down five potential options.
Air Jordan XXXIV
The Air Jordan XXXIV is rumored to be released in the fall of 2019 and will be one of the most anticipated basketball sneakers this year. Westbrook is now on his second signature model, and the brand will need a new face for its iconic line. Jordan is doing everything it can to prepare for the future with the signings of young stars Williamson and Tatum. Williamson will have all eyes on him this upcoming season as he makes his NBA debut, and that means more eyes on Jordan’s latest signature model.
While Michael Jordan’s legacy will live on forever, the introduction of Williamson as the face of the flagship line will help captivate a younger demographic. Last year’s AJ XXXIII featured the introduction of FastFit technology, which might be a huge plus for Zion, who will benefit from the lockdown feature within the shoe.
MJ gave high praise to Williamson after announcing the deal in a press release: “Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring. He’s an essential part of the new talent that will help lead the brand into the future. He told us he would ‘shock the world,’ and asked us to believe him. We do." One thing is for sure, the potential advertisements with Williamson and MJ are going to be legendary. Expect Williamson to carry the torch for the Jordan Brand line for some time.
Air Jordan retro models
One of the many benefits of signing with Jordan Brand is getting keys to an iconic vault of sneakers. Williamson will have the opportunity to pick any shoes he wants to wear on a nightly basis. Not every Jordan athlete wears newer models. Kemba Walker has worn the Air Jordan X the past few seasons. Ray Allen wore just about every model in a different colorway. Typically older models have a bulkier fit and that might be huge plus for Williamson, who is a freak of nature and needs a strong sneaker. Shoes like the Air Jordan IV or the Air Jordan VIII or even the X have the proper structure to contain Williamson’s foot from breaking out when he makes a move.
You don’t offer a player a record size contract without a little bit of strategy behind it. Nike gave LeBron a signature sneaker in his first year in the league to feed off the hype around him. Williamson’s hype is as high as ever, and while a Zion signature sneaker might not ready in time for the season, you can’t completely throw out the idea. It would be foolish to think Jordan Brand and Nike entered meetings with Williamson without pitching an apparel line centered around him. A Zion signature model is coming in the future; it is just a matter of when. As ESPN's Nick DePaula reported, only nine rookies in NBA history have ever had a signature sneaker, with Lonzo Ball being the last to receive the honor through Big Baller Brand. Jordan and LeBron are the only Nike athletes with the credential, could Zion be next in line?
Jordan "Why Not?" Zer0.2 SE
Westbrook is one of the most athletically gifted players in NBA history and could probably serve as a mentor for Williamson in his first season with the brand. The Why Not Zer0.2 earned rave reviews last season, and the second edition of the shoe strips down the original model for a lighter, lower and faster look that might appeal to Williamson. Williamson wore Kyrie Irving and Paul George models in his lone season at Duke, and the Why Not Zer0.2 ranks just as high with those models in terms of performance. The sneaker fits Westbrook’s off-the-wall personality, and it is built with a unique design that makes it one of the best upcoming basketball releases. It might be tough to persuade Williamson to wear another player's signature sneaker, but if anyone understands playing with that much power it is Westbrook.
The Jordan Jumpman Diamond
The Jordan Jumpman Diamond, was created by legendary designer Tinker Hatfield, is the latest addition to the brand’s performance basketball line. The construction of the sneaker provides support and forefoot responsiveness. It also includes an external diamond cage system that gives it a unique look. Tatum has worn the model a lot this summer in basketball runs. One of Jordan’s more budget-friendly models, it is highly unlikely they would market the shoe around a blockbuster player such as Williamson.