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Zion Williamson sneaker bidding war might be down to 3-horse race with Under Armour likely out

Zion Williamson

The sneaker bidding war for Duke freshman and soon-to-be top-pick rookie Zion Williamson has reportedly been narrowed down to a three-horse race. A recent report by Jess Golden of CNBC has Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank giving Williamson his due props, but saying his company will have to be thoughtful in what they can offer, likely meaning UA is out of the running.

“He’s probably one of the best prospects to come out in a very long time,” said Plank. “We have a great stable, We can do just about anything, we just can’t do everything. So we have to be thoughtful about how we play moneyball and how we deploy dollars.”

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports, this would leave powerhouses Nike and Adidas as the frontrunner, along with newcomer Puma — who signed some of the best prospects of the 2018 draft class in Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr. along with established stars like DeMarcus Cousins, Joel Embiid and Terry Rozier.

Only a week ago, ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that as many as six brands would jump on the bidding for college basketball’s biggest star, only to amend that as a guest on The Jump on Thursday, saying that it could be seven brands aiming to make a deal happen with Williamson.

In the article, DePaula outlined that this could be the biggest sneaker war since Reebok vs. Nike battled for LeBron James back in 2003, likely taking every company’s very best offer to warrant the rights to Williamson’s name and likeness.

Nike already has five signature shoes with active NBA stars, including Kevin Durant, Paul George, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and now Giannis Antetokounmpo, a roster full of faces to promote throughout the season.

Adidas has signature lines for James Harden, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Derrick Rose and soon Kristaps Porzingis, putting the brand in a similar predicament than its biggest rival.

For Puma, who at the time still hasn’t produced any signature lines for any of its NBA athletes, it could represent a monumental change, as Zion would become the lone face of the brand and one that can help grow its influence astronomically.

According to DePaula, there are several Chinese brands ready to offer big money and opportunities up front — but the main race remains between the three aforementioned brands, now that Under Armour has likely vacated its place in this sneaker war.

Editor’s note: This article has been expanded and updated to reflect the points made with more clarity.