Puma and Nike are seen as the two finalists to land a footwear deal with Zion Williamson, seen by many as the most highly-touted prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James, according to TMZ Sports.
Williamson, who starred at Duke University, was the number one pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and joined the New Orleans Pelicans.
Typically, a star player would have been signed by now but TMZ reports that Puma has “come out of nowhere” to challenge Nike for Williamson. Williamson was also seen courtside in early July during the Summer League games wearing the Puma RS-X Reinvention on one night and the RS-0 “Video Game” the next night.
Williamson did wear a pair of Nike Kyrie 4s while initially participating in the league before sitting out the rest of the games with a bruised knee. In a widely-covered incident, he suffered a knee injury last season at Duke when he tore through the side of his Nike PG 2.5s in a game against the University of North Carolina.
The TMZ report indicated that Nike is aware of the push by Puma and is working quickly to finalize a deal with him as their No. 1 priority to sign this offseason.
Williamson could land a deal north of $100 million due to his popularity, according to recruiting legend and former Nike and Adidas executive Sonny Vaccaro.
“There are particular, singular athletes that can move the needle,” Vaccaro told TMZ Sports. “Zion Williamson has moved the needle before he even became a professional.”
Puma’s interest comes as the brand re-entered the basketball category last year with the signing of Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, DeMarcus Cousins and others. Ayton and Bagley were the first two picks from the 2018 NBA Draft.
Photo courtesy New Orleans Pelicans