Zion Williamson is an extremely polished young player, deft with handling the media and answering difficult questions. And while he’s already professional in interviews and with reporters, he may have inadvertently tipped his preference about what NBA team he would like to play for.
Williamson was in Chicago for the NBA draft lottery and walked across the line of podiums set up for the teams in the lottery. He did something notable upon seeing the Atlanta Hawks logo, giving it a double tap.
Zion double tapped the Hawks logo pic.twitter.com/tGv9Gfnn7U
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) May 15, 2019
That didn’t seem to be accidental. He was looking at each one as he walked by and gave the tap specifically for the Hawks.
Atlanta had the 5th-worst record in the league and a 10.5 percent chance of winning the top pick, where they would be able to get Williamson. They have John Collins and Trae Young, and Williamson, the former Duke star from South Carolina, would fit in perfectly with them.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s MLB debut Friday night was a huge event in Toronto, and one Blue Jay had a rather apt comparison for it.
Pitcher Marcus Stroman, who started the game and pitched seven outstanding innings, compared it to playing with future NBA phenom Zion Williamson.
“It’s like having Zion Williamson on your team; it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent,” Stroman said, via ESPN. “So just to have the opportunity to play with him, it’s amazing to look out there and see him behind me at third base. I think he’s gonna give us a huge little edge, and just, like I said, just carry this momentum from this win into every other start.”
Guerrero paid tribute to his father on arrival, then set up a walk-off homer with his first MLB hit, a double in the ninth. The hype generated by his debut is certainly comparable to Zion-mania, and there’s a lot of excitement to see what kind of numbers Guerrero can put up.
When it comes to baby gender reveals, this one may top them all.
Nolan Burg works for Duke athletics and used his connections to orchestrate a great gender reveal. He and his wife Danielle got Blue Devils star Zion Williamson to dunk a ball that was coordinated with the mascot releasing blue and white confetti to show they were having a boy.
ZIN SHUT DOWN THE GENDER REVEAL GAME.
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) April 18, 2019
If you ask me, everything in life is better with Zion Williamson involved, and that includes gender reveals. Maybe he can offer that service to others.
That was probably our favorite sports-related gender reveal since Joey Logano’s awesome one.
As everyone expected, Zion Williamson is going pro.
In a video posted to his Instagram page, Williamson thanked Duke, coach Mike Krzyzewski, and his mother before officially declaring for the NBA Draft.
Everyone saw this coming, and Williamson came close to confirming it after Duke was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. In his only season at Duke, he averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, sweeping the Wooden, Naismith, and AP Player of the Year awards.
Williamson will be the heavy favorite to become the first overall pick in June’s NBA Draft. The lottery will be held on May 14, and it may determine his destination.
Michael Avenatti has kicked his Nike accusations into high gear.
Avenatti, an attorney known for representing Stormy Daniels in her case against Donald Trump, is being accused of attempting to extort Nike. He allegedly threatened to go public with accusations against Nike if they did not pay him.
Avenatti has decided to go public in the last 24 hours with his accusations anyway.
On Friday night, Avenatti accused Nike exec Carlton DeBose of bribing high schoolers so that they would attend Nike-sponsored colleges. He later accused Nike of making payments to Zion Williamson’s mother Sharonda Sampson for bogus “consulting services”, which he says were bribes.
.@DukeMBB – About this denial by Coach K the other day relating to payments by Nike…Can you please ask Zion Williamson’s mother – Sharonda Sampson – whether she was paid by @nike for bogus “consulting services” in 2016/17 as part of a Nike bribe to get Zion to go to Duke? Thx.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 6, 2019
Williamson ended up choosing to attend Duke for college. The Blue Devils have been sponsored by Nike since 1992, and Coach K has extremely strong ties to the brand. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in a scandal involving improper payments that has rocked the college basketball world.
Duke says they are aware of the allegations and are investigating matters.
“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” Duke AD Kevin White wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”
Nike says they will not respond to Avenatti’s claims.
“Nike will not respond to the allegations of an individual facing federal charges of fraud and extortion and aid in his disgraceful attempts to distract from the athletes on the court at the height of the tournament. Nike will continue its cooperation with the government’s investigation into grassroots basketball and the related extortion case,” the apparel company said in a statement via Dan Wetzel.
Avenatti continues to assert that Nike is guilty.
“Nike is guilty of rampant criminal conduct in bribing players for years and has been striving for weeks now to distract away from their bribery and fraud perpetrated at the highest levels. They knew they could not keep it secret any longer so they lied to the government and enlisted them in their scheme. If I’m lying about what Nike has done, why don’t they deny the bribery? They are guilty as hell.”
In case you are unfamiliar with how these bribery schemes work, sneaker companies have a lot to gain in sales through brand exposure. They sponsor college programs as part of their marketing, and being linked to star athletes and winning programs helps their brand and sales. Some companies believe that if they can bribe top high school athletes to play for college programs they sponsor, they will have a lot to gain. They also are attempting to build relationships with these athletes in case they become stars in the pros. A star player like Zion is extremely attractive to these companies; fans will want to buy Williamson’s gear, which is why so many companies are competing to sign him as he enters the NBA.
Kentucky coach John Calipari is known for his ability to recruit and improve freshmen, so it’s perhaps a touch surprising that he wasn’t able to land Zion Williamson.
Williamson ultimately attended Duke and took college basketball by storm, which led Calipari to admit that he’d underestimated exactly what the young big man could do.
“We recruited Zion. I probably missed him a little bit,” Calipari told The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, via Jeff Borzello of ESPN. “I knew he was going to be good, I didn’t know he was going to be this good. I knew he could dominate, but not like he’s done.
“When we played against him, I walked off the court and said, ‘I missed on another one!’ I knew he’d be good … the kid’s off the chain.”
Kentucky was involved in Williamson’s recruitment, but not as aggressively as Duke. The Blue Devils’ success didn’t really sit well with Calipari at the time, though both ended up getting equally far in this year’s NCAA Tournament, with both schools falling in the Elite Eight.
New York Knicks fans should get excited, and not just because of the possibility of Kevin Durant joining the franchise.
Zion Williamson was named AP Player of the Year on Friday. He spoke with the media and was asked about the possibility of playing for the Knicks. The Duke star said he would “love” to play for them if they draft him.
Zion on the possibility of playing for the Knicks: “If they draft me, I would love to play for them.”
— Malcolm Moran (@malcolm_moran) April 5, 2019
If nothing else, Zion is smooth with the media and knows how to handle questions. He has a great attitude and says he will feel honored by whatever team drafts him.
Williamson seems to be a lock to go No. 1 overall, and the team that wins this year’s lottery is viewed as one that will be getting a franchise-changing player. Knicks fans are just salivating over the possibilities.