Duke Basketball: Zion Williamson’s kryptonite coming to light

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

As generous as Zion Williamson proved to be on and off the court as a Duke basketball player, his personality may prove detrimental to at least the financial aspect of his professional career.

At last, beyond our love for the Duke basketball program, I see something I share in common with Zion Williamson.

I see that when it comes to making financial decisions — he already faces a threat to take away $100 million before he’s even had the chance to earn his first million — the 6-foot-7, 285-pound missing Stonehenge rock on pogo sticks has now put forth evidence suggesting he may be human after all.

Don’t get me wrong, Williamson remains the scariest player on the planet.

For anyone living under a rock for the past year, in his lone season at Duke, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks while hitting 75 percent of his attempts inside the arc on his way to becoming the runaway choice for national player of the year and a popular pick to be basketball’s next household name.

As for the messages popping up across social media arguing the hype is bigger than Williamson himself and that he maybe shouldn’t be the No. 1 pick in next week’s NBA Draft, well, let’s just say the Twitter handle @OldTakesExposed will soon be seeking out those tweets.

But back to Zion’s potential kryptonite.

As a professional, he has officially made his first mistake.

Rather than his potential on the court dominating headlines this week, all the talk has been about money — specifically how Williamson goes about choosing who will handle it and attempt to maximize his future endorsements and contracts that could total in the billions before his career ends.

Long story short — for those who have been living under a rock this week — news came to light on Thursday of Williamson filing a lawsuit to legally enforce the termination of a contract after the agency he signed the contract with, Prime Sports Marketing, threatened him with a potential $100 million lawsuit for trying to terminate said contract in the first place.

The lawsuit from Williamson, who signed with CAA Sports the day before asking out of his agreement with Florida-based Prime Sports, claims the contract breached North Carolina laws. A release from Prime Sports on Friday, of course, argues otherwise.

I’ll leave the details to the lawyers and move on to the underlying issue:

Zion is quite possibly the kindest human currently in existence. He’s trusting. He’s sharing. His smile is worth a million bucks — quite possibly multiplied by 1,000. Plus, still being 18 years old, he’s probably a bit naive.

Although most of us strive to score as high as he does in the above traits, if left unchecked, these traits may prove to put a hurting on his potential earning power, cause unnecessary distractions, and ultimately be his downfall.

In fact, maybe I’m naive myself and think too simply about these types of matters, but this entire story forces me to rehash a question I’ve long had concerning Williamson:

Why does Williamson need to share any of his future earnings with an agent at all?

His circumstances are as unique as they come. It’s not as if he needs to advertise his talents; no, ESPN has long since had that covered for him. As a result, it’s not as if finding companies who want to endorse him requires any effort at all — so long as he keeps scraping backboards with the top his head, the companies will continue knocking at his door.

And it’s not as if negotiating the amounts and terms of the contracts on his behalf is rocket science. Heck, if Williamson promises to pretend to be my friend, I’ll be his agent free of charge. And here’s how I’d handle all negotiations:

Company rep: Here’s our offer.

Me: Not enough. Try again. 

Simple as that.

The companies won’t quit trying, for Williamson’s unselfishness, freak athleticism, polished game, and charisma stand to attract the attention of seemingly everyone on the planet — thereby rapidly moving off the shelves whatever product Williamson chooses to endorse.

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Same goes for future NBA contracts, assuming Zion lives up to the hype. The offered amount will never be adequate. Again, the only necessary negotiating words are “try again.”

As for the handling of his earnings, Williamson needs to follow three principles: keep investments simple, don’t buy cars and houses for long-lost relatives, and, when in doubt, call folks like Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will surely give wise advice without asking for a piece of the pie.

ALSO READ: Duke should pay Zion Williamson millions to teach class

When it comes to Zion’s future, scam-artists, greedy businessmen, and the likes will be like roaches: no matter how many times he tries to get rid of them for good, they will continue trying to sneak their way back into his space.

I’m purely speculating, but it’s possible some of the family members closest to Zion are more a part of the problem than the solution.

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So maybe — as awful as it sounds — Zion needs to shield himself from most family members and close friends, shrinking his inner circle to those he knows for certain he can trust and thereby preventing potentially dangerous advice from ever hitting his ears.

And maybe it will turn out only he should be inside said circle.

But the solution laid out above sounds unrealistic to Duke fans who fell in love with Zion for being Zion — a social king who gets along with, and seems to trust, everybody.

Unfortunately, considering the greed-filled world us humans have created, Zion’s otherworldly positive personality may actually turn out to be his undoing.

That being said, here’s my prediction: the disputes this week, no matter in whose favor they end up, will be a blip. Zion’s dominance at the next level and subsequent marketability will prove to be off the charts, thereby continously leading to record-breaking contracts large enough to allow Zion to afford future financial mistakes and to keep being himself by sharing generously without a hint of greed — while still having more in his bank account than practically everyone else on the planet he’s supposedly from.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more updates, analyses, and opinions concerning Zion and other Blue Devils in the NBA.