Duke Basketball: School should pay Zion Williamson millions to teach class

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The best way to repay the all-time most impressive Blue Devil, both on and off the court, is to hire him to instruct future Duke basketball players on the best way to behave.

The NCAA owes Zion Williamson millions. Obviously, though, that “not-for-profit” organization won’t pay up. Therefore, the Duke basketball program should do the right thing — also the beneficial and within-the-rules thing — by cutting an eight-figure check for his “future” services.

The moment the freshman — the one this season who drove record profits that stuffed the wallets primarily of old men whom no fan tuned in to watch — signs his first endorsement deal, making him ineligible to return, someone at the school should construct the contract for those services.

The required services should only include teaching incoming Blue Devils how to act as Blue Devils soon after they arrive on campus during the summer; the obvious reason Williamson is the right man for the job is that no Blue Devil has ever served as a better example of how to act as a Blue Devil.

The scheduling of such classes should revolve around his spare time away from whatever NBA franchise he soon anchors.

The total amount of time Williamson should have to spend teaching the annual class should be of his own choosing; after all, unlike the NCAA, which spends countless hours “protecting” the integrity of college athletics while seemingly skipping on spending a single second scrutinizing its own, Williamson will do the right thing.

And if the greatest ambassador for Duke and the sport as a whole offers to advise future Blue Devil freshmen for free — based on his charitable contributions this season to the program without once griping about the asinine and outdated NCAA rule that prohibited him from profiting off his own image or likeness, he will — the school should pay him anyway.

And if the NCAA tries to claim the payment for such teaching services breaks a rule — considering the school never promised such a gig during his recruitment nor while he was a player, this writer was unable to find such a rule that the school would be breaking — Duke should pay a lawyer to challenge what would be a bogus ruling.

ALSO READ: NCAA owes Zion Williamson a public apology

There’s essentially no difference between this proposed arrangement and the hiring of a former player to be an assistant coach. Call him a part-time special assistant if that is what it takes.

The result of such an arrangement would yield two primary benefits:

  1. Future Duke basketball players would learn from the best exactly what it takes to handle gobs of attention — no college athlete has ever faced more than Williamson — while exemplifying humility as a teammate and being an exemplary role model for all.
  2. Potential recruits would take note of the program’s gesture, with an unspoken understanding that if they too exude unfathomable character while playing at a level that results in the raking in of immeasurable dollars for the program, they may have a chance to earn some lucrative side dough of their own — or a primary source of income if they were to suffer a career-ending injury as a Blue Devil — by teaching such summer classes after wrapping up their college careers.

Regardless of the benefits, as noted at the beginning of this article, repaying Zion is just the right thing to do. While all the 2018-19 Blue Devils deserve to profit off their contributions to entertain the masses, Williamson’s entertainment value while being an upstanding citizen made a mockery of the fact that he hasn’t directly profited from the work he put in — even if he deems his playing basketball purely play and not at all a job.

Zion is more than the world’s most astonishing aerial act.

He’s more than a 6-foot-7, 280-pound ambidextrous baller who set a new standard for all future college basketball players — not just freshmen — by averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks while knocking down 68.0 percent of his attempts from the field and 33.8 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

He’s more than the national player of the year.

He’s more than the surefire No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft — at the time of this article’s publishing, he hadn’t yet announced his decision to turn pro, probably just as another friendly favor to fans, allowing them to think of him still as a current player for a bit longer while dreaming, however foolishly, he will decide to become a sophomore.

He’s more than the guy who, at the beginning of the season, invited sophomore walk-on Mike Buckmire to always sit by his side in the locker room for postgame interviews so that, in essence, Buckmire could one day tell his grandchildren about his having a unique view of the Zion Experience.

He’s more than the guy who gave some fellow students a doozy of a story to tell their future grandchildren by dunking all over them earlier this week in an on-campus gym — and nearly bringing the goal down in the process.

He’s more than the guy who never once publicly complained about receiving fewer shot opportunities — overall and particularly at the end of close losses, including the one to Michigan State in the Elite Eight on Sunday that ended Duke’s season  — than his roommate and best friend, R.J. Barrett, despite the media often trying to provoke such a response.

He’s more than the guy who scoffed at the notion, particularly after his knee-injury-heard-round-the-world on Feb. 20, that he should quit the season early to protect his future earning potential.

He’s more than the guy who regularly deflected questions about his own greatness by never failing to explain the greatness of his teammates and coaches.

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He’s more than the all-time favorite to watch of any Duke basketball fan with working eyeballs and a habit of telling the truth.

He’s more than his ear-to-ear smile that draws to the TV even those who could care less about basketball.

Zion is the pride of the Duke basketball program.

And the university.

Now and forever.

It’s about time for the program to retire his jersey number despite his only playing one season and not yet earning a degree — heck, the university should have already bestowed upon him an honorary degree just for being Zion.

ALSO READ: Zion’s number belongs in Cameron’s rafters

It’s about time — unless, of course, he stuns the world by staying another season — for the school to offer him what would be a crazy salary if it was for anyone else just to give talks to future Blue Devils; these behavioral lessons would enhance the program’s overall character, and likely add to its success, for years to come.

It’s about time Duke take advantage of this method to reap the rewards that would result from Zion being around the program as much as his future schedule will allow.

It’s about time, no matter how it’s done, to properly reward him for an all-around job well done — a massive-as-Zion understatement.

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Zion is Mr. Class. Pay the man. Class dismissed.