Zion Williamson, the first overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, has signed with Jordan Brand. On Tuesday, Nike revealed the signing, which adds the former Duke University star to the brand’s roster of athletes that includes NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and recent NBA and WNBA signees Jayson Tatum, Rui Hachimura, Asia Durr and Kia Nurse. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family,” Williamson said in a statement. “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.”
Williamson was born in North Carolina in 2000, one year before Michael Jordan made his return to the NBA with the Washington Wizards. Many sports analysts expect a great professional career from the young prospect given his short-lived college career that drew loads of attention and endless Instagram and YouTube postings of his acrobatic play. Deadline reported that Williamson’s debut NBA Summer League game drew a record 1.2 metered market rating, and Duke games were up 30 percent last year.
This year, Williamson was the odds-on favorite to be selected number-one overall in the draft and was named ACC Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year, as well as National College Player of the Year by Naismith, John Wooden, Oscar Robertson, National Association of Basketball Coaches, Sporting News and the Associated Press.
Williamson sprained his knee while playing for Duke in February after ripping through a pair of Nike PG 2.5 sneakers, the signature shoe for Los Angeles Clippers player Paul George, which had led many to question Williamson’s health, if he would still be selected number-one overall and if he would sign with Nike. He returned to the court after the injury, and now, he is a Jordan Brand athlete.
Westbrook, Anthony and Paul each have signature sneakers under the Jordan Brand, and one may be on the way soon for Williamson.
“Zion’s incredible determination, character and play are inspiring,” said Michael Jordan in a statement. “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.”
The Williamson signing has potential to take Jordan back to the top since MJ’s heyday on the Chicago Bulls. New Balance, Under Armour, Nike and Adidas have had their top basketball stars win big for them. Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Championship this year in New Balance; Steph Curry and Kevin Durant won back-to-back titles in Under Armour and Nike, respectively, and Adidas athlete James Harden won the 2018 NBA MVP award.
The signing is also significant given that Leonard left Jordan Brand to sign with New Balance less than a year ago. Leonard was the last NBA star to lead a team to the NBA Championship in Jordan Brand, and that was in 2014 when he played for the San Antonio Spurs. He also did not have a signature sneaker with Jordan, and competed in player exclusive versions of Air Jordan sneakers.