As the Pelicans superstar takes the floor in an exclusive sneaker, the story behind it is a family affair.
Before taking the floor for a home game Monday evening against the Brooklyn Nets, Zion Williamson will be lacing up his very first signature shoe for the first time: the Jordan Zion 1.
After a bidding war between several brands overtook the summer of 2019, Jordan Brand signed the New Orleans Pelicans phenom with the promise of an exclusive sneaker. The extensive Beaverton, Oregon pitch to Zion, his mother, stepfather, and half-brother centered on the family atmosphere of the brand, but make no mistake — building a business around Zion as Jordan’s first Gen Z signature athlete was a selling point too good to pass up.
“Words can’t really explain it, if I’m being honest,” Williamson said. “As a kid, you kind of just say it just to put it in the atmosphere, ‘Yeah, I want my own shoe when I get older.’ As you get older, you see that it’s tough to get your own signature shoe and things really have to go your way.”
Nearly two years later, with the player’s direct involvement throughout the process, the Zion 1 was crafted by designer Vianney de Montgolfier specifically to harness the blend of speed and power that the Pelicans All-Star brings to the court with a 6’7″, 285-pound frame.
Since his time at Duke, Williamson’s trademark fade haircut has featured a “Z” on the left side, and his first initial is now channeled into the design of his sneaker and its accompanying apparel line.
In a series of meetings with Jordan Brand over the last year — done primarily over Zoom, with a family member by his side — Williamson also shared his love of padded and plush tongues on sneakers. He also relayed that his favorite superhero is Batman, leading to the superhero-inspired tongue on the Zion 1, with zonal padding drawing from classic costumes.
To round out the storytelling of his debut line, there are colorways speaking to his South Carolina upbringing and his close-knit family. The “Marion” edition incorporates the maroon of his middle school basketball team in the small South Carolina town he grew up in, which was coached by his mom, Sharonda.
“To this day, she is the hardest coach I’ve ever had,” Zion says with a smile. “Nobody believes when I say that.”
The liveliest colorway of the set, however, is inspired by Zion’s younger brother, Noah.
“The story behind the Noah colorway begins when I was searching for which shoe company I was going to eventually sign with,” he said.
During his Jordan Brand pitch meeting, designers handed Noah an all-white Jordan 1 Low and a batch of crayons and markers. He tagged them up with scribbles of every color on each panel, leading to the frantic, multi-color look of the Zion 1.
“This is a colorway that I’m going to have, no matter what happens,” Zion beams. “I’m always going to have a Noah colorway.”