The Zion Effect has made everyone else rich, so after his knee injury, he needs to shut things down.
Millions of dollars of revenue poured into the Duke program this season, thanks to the captivating play of freshman Zion Williamson, who entered last night’s game against North Carolina averaging 22.4 points per game and getting more ink than it takes to put full body tattoos on 80 elephants.
Everyone from the TV networks, to the ACC conference to the universities that comprise the conference, to the local bars, get paid when a player of Zion’s transcending magnitude takes the stage.
In a recent Shadow League piece entitled “Zion Williamson Is The Most Underpaid Athlete In All Of Sports Today,” Yussuf Khan delves into the “Zion Effect” and how the player is driving revenue for everyone except himself.
Khan chronicles Zion’s impact on everything from ticket sales to increased television ad revenue and visibility for Duke’s program.
“When the economic success of a program thrives primarily because of a player like Zion,” writes Khan, “ there’s no denying that the single year scholarship, stipend and room and board he receives will be severely dwarfed by the revenue he drives by playing.”
Which is why last night may have been the last time we get to see this hardwood marvel playing in a college game. If Williamson shuts it down for the remainder of the season, who could blame him? I certainly wouldn’t.
Tickets for last night’s UNC-Duke matchup were selling for thousands of dollars. The price of the game was driven by Williamson and the mega marketing hype surrounding this freakishly athletic man-child. The entire sports world stopped what it was doing to watch the 18-year-old future NBA No. 1 pick and his band of badass freshmen take center stage in one of college sports’ greatest rivalries.
36 seconds into the biggest game of Williamson’s college career, his Nike sneaker exploded, which led to a knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of the game.
While fans never got the exhilarating matchup they expected, as No. 1 -ranked Duke (22-3) got blown out by No. 8 North Carolina 88-72, a bunch of folks got paid in full before Williamson ever took the court.
Problem is, none of the performers or players that generated all of this excitement and revenue actually got to partake in the financial windfall. Which brings us back to the same old issue of whether or not college players should be paid and to what extent should the often exploitative and predatorial NCAA governing body be able to capitalize on the accomplishments of student athletes without splitting the pie.
Afterwards, several NBA stars took to social media to advise Williamson to not come back to college basketball.
“I think he’s locked up the biggest shoe deal,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think he’s definitely going to be the No. 1 pick. I think he’s done enough for college basketball that it’s more about him personally now, and i think for him as a young player, I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career.”
Some people felt Pippen was out of line. I wonder what they think now that Williamson has been injured.
Zion’s participation in last night’s game benefited everyone but himself. Unlike his Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Williamson hasn’t been able to capitalize on his explosive earning potential yet.
There’s absolutely no personal financial benefit to Zion attending Duke or playing another minute this season. And we know he doesn’t have any intentions of graduating right now, so the four-year scholarship doesn’t do anything for him.
He’s a walking billboard and brand by himself. He definitely doesn’t need the Duke Empire to make him any more well-known or valuable to future NBA teams. All he’s doing by remaining at Duke is losing money.
Last year it was Lonzo Ball and Big Baller movement bringing attention to the college game and generating millions for media shows, UCLA and anyone associated with that brand. LaVar understood the game and he made sure that his boy got paid and challenged the NCAA to stop his entrepreneurial activity.
Hopefully, Zion’s knee sprain isn’t serious or he might have to sue Nike. It’s reported as a mild knee sprain, which is good news. At the very least, however, it’s still a glaring signal that as long as Zion plays college basketball, there’s a possibility of him getting hurt.
If he gets hurt, he’ll never being able to recoup the millions of dollars his name has already generated.
It’s also the perfect excuse to shut it down and get ready for the NBA draft and his real future, which has nothing to do with Duke basketball.