Zion Williamson: Billions on the line

Zion WilliamsonZion Williamson has an insurance policy that would pay him $8 million should he drop below the 16th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft due to injury.

As if.

You know. As if Williamson, if injured, would fall that far in the draft.

Let’s say Williamson misses the rest of his one-and-done season at Duke due to the injury that he suffered last night against North Carolina.

Even if it would be worst-case, a torn meniscus, an ACL, you’re still taking him #1, and letting him sit a year, at which point, he’s 20, and he’s a rookie, and you’ve got Zion Williamson.

So, nice idea, that insurance policy, but unless something catastrophic happens, he’s not collecting.

Now, flip side to that, something catastrophic happens.

That $8 million is a drop in the bucket on what Williamson is ultimately worth.

Let’s start with a b-, as in, billions.

OK, maybe just a couple, but still.

I’m basing that guesstimate on what Lebron James has been able to pull in, combined, from his NBA and off-the-court deals.

That’s the ceiling for a guy who is being looked at as a generational talent.

Such is the rarefied air that Williamson travels in: LBJ, MJ.

Key to that is that he is healthy, obviously.

His generational talent is that he’s 6’7”, 285 pounds, is a beast in the low post, quick as a guard on the perimeter, a premium on-ball defender, an elite rim protector.

He needs to work on his jumper, but, whatever, that will come.

All of what he has to offer is predicated on his freakish athleticism for a guy his size.

Take away that freakish athleticism with a bad knee injury, for instance, and the ceiling comes down significantly.

From being the next LBJ or MJ, we could be talking … next Zach Randolph?

Who, no offense at all to Zach Randolph, had a long, productive NBA career, but Zach Randolph isn’t a billionaire, doesn’t own an NBA team, isn’t his own brand.

This is what Zion Williamson has at stake every time he steps on a college court from here on out.

He’s doing what he does for free – and before you scroll down to the comment section and scratch out a hot take about, Well, he’s getting a college scholarship, just stop.

He has a scholarship, awesome. To earn credits toward a degree that he will not be finishing. Which everybody, himself, his family, Coach K, knew when it was offered.

Meanwhile, Duke brings in a $31 million annual profit from its basketball program, the second-best in college basketball.

People were paying $2,500, $3,000, $5,000 and more for tickets to last night’s Duke-UNC game.

Coach K makes $9 million a year.

Zion Williamson will soon be back out there – diving for loose balls, hitting his head on the backboard on rebounds, straining the known limits of Nike shoe technology.

Putting his destiny – billions, with a b- – on the line.

Column by Chris Graham

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
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