NBA

Zion Williamson Is on a $200 Million Hot Seat and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski Should Be Terrified

Zion Williamson spent just one year at Duke and instantly became one of the best players to don a Blue Devils uniform. But the fantastically talented No. 1 pick is now an enormously expensive lawsuit with his former marketing agency. And with his scorned agent putting him on the hot seat, the young NBA star may be forced to admit to some serious violations. The thought of that alone should strike fear into Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of Duke basketball fans.

Zion Williamson was a one-year superstar at Duke

A high-school prodigy with a dunking highlight reel that puts Henry Ruggs to shame, Zion Williamson took his talents to Duke. The Blue Devils have churned out a number of NBA superstars over the years, including Grant Hill, Elton Brand and Kyrie Irving. Like a number of NBA stars, Williamson went the one-and-done route. And boy did he make his brief stay in Durham, North Carolina count.

The 6-foot-7, 285-phenom bullied the best college basketball had to offer. Displaying ferocious power and unmatched intensity, the left-hander averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks in his 33-game college career. Duke’s star-studded lineup also featured R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils didn’t quite live up to immense expectations.

Mike Krzyzewski’s team went 32-6, including 14-4 in ACC play. As a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Duke toppled North Dakota State, Central Florida and Virginia Tech. However, despite his 24-point, 14-rebound effort, Zion Williamson and Duke lost by one point to Michigan State in the Elite Eight round.

No. 1 pick is embroiled in an expensive lawsuit

As one of the rare athletes capable of jumping straight to the pros, Zion Williamson didn’t really need to suit up at Duke to prove his worth. Nevertheless, his one season with the Blue Devils showed NBA scouts all they needed to know about his star potential. The New Orleans Pelicans selected Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have a chance to hit the ground running. A knee injury sidelined the uber-talented dunker until the end of January. However, once he stepped on an NBA court, Zion showed no signs of rust. He delivered 22 points in his first game. Before the NBA season halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the former Duke star had averaged 23.6 points and 6.8 boards in 19 games.

His rookie season ultimately became clouded in controversy. In May 2019, Williamson fired Gina Ford from Prime Sports Marketing after he had recently hired her as his marketing representative. He then signed with Creative Artists Agency. However, the young NBA star can’t seem to escape Ford’s wrath. The two have become embroiled in multiple lawsuits, with Ford seeking damages in excess of $200 million by claiming Williamson unlawfully breached his contract. But the story took a potentially dangerous turn for the new NBA star in a move that could lead to damage to Duke as well.

Zion may have to admit to serious NCAA violations from his Duke days

According to ESPN, Ford’s attorneys made an interesting filing in Miami-Dade County court last week. The attorneys asked Zion Williamson to admit that several statements hold true, and let’s just say the ramifications could be massive. Those statements include:

  •  Sharonda Sampson, Williamson’s mother, and Lee Anderson, his stepfather, “demanded and received gifts and economic benefits from persons acting on behalf of Duke University (directly and/or indirectly) to influence [Williamson] to attend Duke University to play basketball.”
  • Sampson and Anderson “demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons on behalf of Nike (directly and/or indirectly) to influence [Williamson] to attend Duke University to play basketball.”
  • Sampson and Anderson “demanded and received gifts, money and/or other benefits from persons acting on behalf of Adidas (directly and/or indirectly) to influence [Williamson] to wear Adidas shoes” and to “influence [Williamson] to attend a college that endorsed Adidas shoes.”

Considering the NCAA’s history of doling out punishments for far lesser violations, the implications for Duke could be crushing. Anytime impermissible benefits, gifts and deals come up, it’s a scary thought for any college athletic administrator or prominent coach like Kryzecwski. Duke has had a few brushes with violations, notably with Marvin Bagley’s family allegedly being paid by Nike. However, Duke has largely escaped unscathed in a college basketball world that has been rocked by violations and scandals in recent years.

Only time will tell if Zion Williamson ultimately validates any of those statements, but Duke Blue Devils fans should be more than worried if any of them are indeed true.