In an impressive 88-72 UNC (21-5) victory over long-term rival Duke (23-3) at the Cameron Indoor Stadium, the outcome of the showdown was hardly the story. In the opening minute of action, Duke superstar freshman, Zion Williamson went down with a knee injury in an odd sequence that saw his foot rip completely through his Nike sneaker. As I watched the future No. 1 overall pick hobble into the locker-room, I couldn’t help but hope Zion never steps on an NCAA court again. Williamson’s family, friends and loved ones should be encouraging him to hang it up now and start preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft.
Hours before the game it was reported the cheapest ticket for the UNC vs. Duke showdown priced out at an unbelievable $2,990. The best seat in the house went for sale at $10,652, nearly doubling last year’s steepest ticket priced at $5,400. This is the Zion effect. Williamson, a freshman sensation in every way imaginable had single-handedly set the online ticket resale market on fire. Fans across the country were purchasing seats at incredible rates to see the biggest show in sports; President Obama, Spike Lee, Ken Griffey Jr. among other recognizable celebrities were in attendance to see up close the “next big thing.”
And yet Zion doesn’t see a penny.
To phrase it differently, Williamson, along with the other young men on Duke and UNC, devoted their entire childhoods chasing a dream while helping the NCAA produce nearly a billion dollars in revenue.
And yet they don’t see a penny.
When Zion went down with the knee sprain, many fans took to Twitter and expressed their desire for Zion to hopefully get back on the court. My thinking is the complete opposite — Zion should come out tomorrow and declare he has no intentions of playing out the remainder of the season.
Hall of Fame forward Scottie Pippen received backlash recently when he stated on ESPN’s “The Jump” that Williamson would be wise to shut things down and wait for the draft. He believed that Williamson had nothing left to prove and could risk injury. Pippen received some pushback for his remarks; however, his comments are now validated.
On the year, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound juggernaut is averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds.
With Duke being the No. 1 ranked team in the county heading into Wednesday night, Williamson was the clear favorite to take home the Naismith College Player of the Year award after the season.
But everything changes with the unfortunate injury and that might even include his upcoming choice to sign a sneaker deal with either Nike or Puma — a pivotal decision as both companies are courting Williamson. For now, though, the top concern is the health of college basketballs most talented player.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) didn’t offer many details during his postgame press conference outside of stating Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain.
“We don’t know how long he will be out,” Coach K said. “So that’s that.”
In four months, Zion will be drafted to an NBA team, signing a multimillion-dollar contract along with massive endorsement deals. It would be an incredible risk to jeopardize future earnings to a program that could still contend for a National Championship in his absence.
If I were Coach K, I would tell Zion you had a hell of a year and entrenched your name in college basketball history forever. Go home, get healthy and get ready for the draft on June 20th!
The financial implications are too steep to say otherwise.