Kobe Bryant. LeBron James. Zion Williamson? The Duke University standout has already grabbed the attention of National Basketball Association scouts but with America finally seeing all of the small forward’s capabilities, it’s clear the North Carolina native will be a future first overall draft pick. But he could become so much more.
Williamson’s college basketball career spans just 10 games but the 18-year-old is proving to be one of the most polarizing players in more than two decades, with comparisons to Shaquille O’Neal, averaging 20.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.0 blocks per game, all while shooting an impressive 66.1 percent from the field. His numbers might be even more inflated if the Blue Devils hadn’t blown out several opponents. The dude has freakish skills – like at least a 45-inch vertical leap, according to The Sporting News – and his numbers back that up but we’re not alone in crowning Williamson as potentially college basketball’s best player this season. Experts already believe that the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson will easily surpass $1 billion in career earnings when he gets to the NBA. To put that into perspective, only three athletes are in the $1 billion club – Michael Jordan, Floyd Mayweather and Tiger Woods, with LeBron James soon to be on his way.
“Zion Williamson’s going to make $1 billion playing basketball effortlessly,” longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told Forbes SportsMoney. “It’s clear that there hasn’t been a college basketball player with this kind of athleticism come to college in a very long time. The combination of his personality, unique physical ability, his basketball ability, the fact that he’s already built himself a brand and the fact that he’s at Duke and is going to be on TV every single game this season, it just adds up. You don’t have to be a marketing genius to realize that this kid is going to make a lot of money off the court.”
Tag a friend who'd see this 🚂 coming and still try to take a charge 👇 pic.twitter.com/PdHSGNqQZ2
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) December 12, 2018
One thing different about Williamson when compared with the aforementioned names is that both Bryant and James forgoed playing college basketball to leap right to the NBA.
Unfortunately for Williamson, he doesn’t have that luxury, as the league now requires draft picks to have spent at least one year at the collegiate level. That means Williamson is risking potentially a ton to be on the basketball court for the next several months, because of the risk of injury for the blue chip prospect. Far too often we’ve seen college players, expected to go in first overall or even in the first round, suffer detrimental injuries that cause them to slide in the draft – look at Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid. But, outside of living in a bubble for the winter, Williamson can’t really think about what lies ahead, as far as the NBA and potential earnings, and just play his game.
Either way, it’s going to be fun to sit back and watch how Williamson’s story unfolds.