Why Zion Willamson signing with Jordan Brand is a testament to the greatness of Michael Jordan
After New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson announced on his Instagram handle that he has decided to sign a shoe deal with the Jordan Brand, to nobody's surprise, the entire basketball community took notice millions of heads turned.
Various sources including ESPN reported that Zion passed up on Puma and other brands, who were front runners in the race to sign the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James, for a shoe deal.
According to Forbes reporter Adam Zagoria, a source close to the situation revealed that Zion signed a deal worth a reported $75 million for 7 years with the Jordan Brand. This makes it the second-biggest rookie shoe deal of all time behind LeBron James who had signed a 7-year $90 million deal back in 2003.
So why did Zion choose the Jordan Brand? to this question, he had this to say in the official Nike announcement:
"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.”
Jointly in the news announcement, Michael Jordan had this to say about the partnership
"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.”
Zion had no shortages of big-name shoe brands looking for his signature, and one can make a very solid educated guess as it was reported later, that brands were offering him more money than MJ's brand, including Jordan's parent company, Nike.
Michael Jordan was his favorite player growing up as he told in an interview with the INSIDER, so this deal comes as no surprise.
As of today, it has been more than a decade and a half since Michael Jordan dribbled a basketball in a professional setting of the NBA. Yet, his influence on young athletes and fans has been almost unparalleled, even on those individuals who were born after his prime years with the Chicago Bulls such as Zion who was born in 2000.
Having mentioned all that, there is also a possibility that if a kid today starts watching the NBA and doesn't have an ounce of a clue about its history, they might think MJ as just a shoe brand owner and an NBA team owner and may not look at him as the greatest player of all-time. Now, it might sound blasphemous but it is true. This obviously isn't always the case and the biggest example is Zion Williamson.
For a basketball fan in his or her late teens or early/mid-twenties, Michael Jordan wasn't playing live on television or elsewhere. We grew up watching greats such as Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and many more amazing players. It was an honor to watch these legends compete regularly and give everything they got on the court. However, as millennials, we have the luxury to log on to YouTube and other platforms to watch Michael Jordan and other greats of his era play some real good and tough basketball.
While a lot of people that grew up in the 2000s might rate LeBron James or Kobe Bryant ahead of Michael Jordan, a significant portion of them don't follow that norm, at least not rating MJ behind Kobe Bryant. This is true, especially for those who have seen enough of MJ on the internet.
He changed the way people viewed basketball, he got beat up every year by the tough New York or Detroit teams in a physical league but he came back stronger every year, making weight training very important in the game. He had this aura about him that was really special, for many individuals including Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
After MJ's retirement, his business brand elevated basketball shoes or sneakers to a level never seen before; just ask any sneakerhead you know, they will tell you. But Jordan's post-playing legacy is much more than that. He changed the way athletes today sign shoe deals, build businesses, and dress up for press conferences amongst other things. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird elevated the NBA to a national scale, whereas Jordan made the league truly international.
To conclude, this deal not only signifies Jordan's humongous impact on basketball that will exist forever but also silences critics who have often resorted to the theory that the 2000s or 90s babies will not look at MJ with the same eyes as those who have witnessed him live.