High school phenom Mikey Williams signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Puma, which makes him the youngest athlete to sign with the brand. The crazy thing is that he is only 17 years old, has not played a collegiate basketball game, still has two more years until he is draft eligible, and is only a junior in high school. Williams is a 6'2'' guard playing for Vertical Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina. Right now, he is listed as #11 overall on ESPN Top 60 for class of 2023.
This summer, he signed with Excel Sports Management when the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) legislation went into effect. A huge factor that led Williams to get a deal with Puma is the fact that he has more than 3.3 million followers on Instagram. By now, there is no surprise that celebrities, top athletes, and even top college athletes make a lot of money on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Now it is time for top high school athletes to get a piece of the action as well. It is tremendous to see Williams as a trailblazer for all high school athletes.
Most importantly, if high school athletes have some money before college, then the recruiting process and AAU circuit will be a lot cleaner. Various colleges around the country are notorious for paying the best high school talent to come to their school, and many times AAU coaches get kickbacks as well. Both processes are sadly corrupt, but the recruiting process would drastically improve if money is not a factor. This makes a lot of sense for Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour as well because they are already sponsoring many camps and tournaments. Brands can have more tournaments and camps specifically for their players signed as well as have other camps for players trying to get scholarships.
In the summer, there are high level camps and tournaments every week. High school athletes barely get a break where they must travel throughout the country to get looks at camps from every brand. Instead, they could get more rest and just go to the camps that their brand is sponsoring. In addition, more unknown players have a better chance of getting scouted. Talking directly to the players is more beneficial instead of having their AAU coach be the middleman giving money to their AAU coaches. Players do not have to put their entire future on a sketchy AAU coach that is receiving the player’s money. The process is way more favorable when players have more control of their future when receiving money.
After high school athletes see this, they will spend more time focusing on their brand on social media platforms. More companies will emerge like Overtime and Hoopmixtape where they will film highlights of players and send them across social media platforms hoping they go viral. This is key because the more views, likes, subscribers, and followers that high school athletes can get, the more likely they will receive a deal with a major company. Then the company that either has a large presence on social media like Overtime or the emerging companies that can market well will benefit by all the views of their videos as well. There will be even more of an explosion of highlights and highlight tapes which will be very beneficial for the game overall.
On the other hand, to get views players will be more focused on insane dunks, shots from half court, and ball handling tricks instead of the fundamentals. Everyone online want to see the crazy dunks or people get crossed up, but, the fundamentals are what make players great. Most high schoolers right now do not have the fundamentals perfected where they can be focusing more of their energy on aspects of the game that they are not ready for. Players will think this is the way they have to play to standout, and many will constantly try to have the best videos. The reason why Steph Curry can shoot from half court with ease is because he has mastered his shooting form from closer distances. These aspects of the game could be very frustrating for high school, AAU, and college coaches until it is normalized. In the short-term coaches will have to stress to their players that the way they play is more beneficial for additional deals than a couple of highlight reels.
Now with money involved, the game of basketball will most likely change. Change is always exciting and great for any sport. In the next 10 years, the game could be even faster and a true position less league. There is already a taste of this with Ben Simmons and Luka Doncic who are big guys with guard abilities. When the emphasis is on ball handling and deeper 3s then eventually more and more players will do this. This has been happening over the last couple of years where the post-game for big men is almost nonexistent. In the future, I believe the game will be even more spread out with every player as a 3-point threat. With offenses spread out closer to half court teams will have extremely fast flowing offenses where every player will have more space to work with. At this point teams would have to change to different half court zone defenses or devout more attention to one-on-one defense. These deals could make the future for the NBA even brighter where there are more skilled players.
Similar to college, the families of high school athletes will benefit from NIL deals as well. Traveling all over the country for various camps and AAU tournaments is expensive and this money could truly help. There are always players that have exciting highlight tapes but never make it to the NBA. For example, Aquille Carr had some of the most insane highlight tapes that took over the internet ten years ago. His Hoopmixtape video on YouTube has almost 10 million views. Unfortunately, he did not make it in the NBA and had a short stint in NBA G-League. Even if players like Carr get a little bit of money and do not make it to the NBA at least they get something for all their hard work.
Chris D'Avanzo is a 2L at Hofstra Law. He can be followed on Twitter @_chrisdavanzo.