Michael Avenatti’s War on Nike was back in the news yesterday as new texts suggest the shoe company started courting Emoni Bates when he was only 13 years old.
Last week, Yahoo Sports released a series of texts between Nike EYBL executives from February 2017 discussing deals for three players: Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, and an unnamed prospect from Michigan whose name was redacted because he’s a minor. As suspected, Yahoo is now reporting that player is Bates, who was only two weeks past his 13th birthday and a seventh grader at the time. Bates, now 15, has been called the best player in high school basketball, and is expected to make the jump directly to the pros in 2022 should the one-and-done rule go by the wayside.
In the texts, the Nike executives discuss how much it will take to sponsor the AAU team that Bates’ father ran, batting around the figure of “15.” Documents don’t show that the offer was ever made, and Bates’ father told Yahoo Sports that the team, Bates Fundamental, didn’t join the EYBL until 2018, a year after the texts were sent. Considering Bates probably won’t even play college basketball and even if he did, NCAA rules allow a shoe company to hire a parent to operate and/or coach an AAU team if it’s an honest employment situation, these claims are no big deal; however, discussing deals for 13-year-old kids is yet another reminder of how seedy grassroots basketball can be.
For more, check out Yahoo’s report from last night.