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Michael Avenatti claims Nike paid Zion Williamson’s mom, Duke is investigating

Over the last two weeks, attorney Michael Avenatti has stirred the college basketball pot on Twitter. After only teasing us, now he has something that could be pretty significant.

The attorney who is being investigated for extorting Nike now claims the shoe company paid Zion Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, for “consulting services.” In theory, those payments were to convince Zion, who played for an Adidas AAU team, to attend a Nike school.

Avenatti also provided some documents that tie the shoe company to DeAndre Ayton and Bol Bol.

Even if you consider the attorney to be nothing more than a carnival barker, they say where there’s smoke, there’s fire. His claims are enough to get the Duke athletic department to investigate the matter.

“We are aware of the allegation and, as we would with any compliance matter, are looking into it. Duke is fully committed to compliance with all NCAA rules and regulations,” athletic director Kevin White wrote in a statement to The Chronicle. “Every student athlete at Duke is reviewed to ensure their eligibility. With regard to men’s basketball: all recruits and their families are thoroughly vetted by Duke in collaboration with the NCAA through the Eligibility Center’s amateurism certification process.”

Even if Avenatti’s claims prove to be untrue, this isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

72 Comments for Michael Avenatti claims Nike paid Zion Williamson’s mom, Duke is investigating

  1. lexcatfan2367
    5:03 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    My how the turntables…

  2. Smyrna_Cat
    5:05 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Duke has done such a good job of burying … oops … I meant investigating … these in the past. I am sure they will do a great job.

  3. ScoggDog
    5:09 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    This will be squashed.

    The NCAA figured out a way to decide why Myron Piggie wasn’t their problem when Corey Maggette took that money. They’ll figure out how this ain’t a problem either.

    The NCAA has a huge advantage. If you start investigating – the entire sports soap opera falls. It’s a big game of Sports Entertainment Chicken.

    No sports fan wants that.

  4. nocode96
    5:12 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    This guy is nuts, that being said, it’s true where there’s smoke there’s fire. Problem is, there likely isn’t a major ncaa school in basketball where some level of this is going on. We’d by naive it’s not. This is why I’m kinda glad Cal has had a questionable past at previous schools. He has the biggest target of any coach on their back, and Kentucky has a similar target on its back. Cal and the compliance staff at UK have likely quadruple checked even the most minor of accusations. We always end up with the best character kids, I’d put their character against any other program. We’ve also taken the slightest dip in recruiting. I do t think these things are coincidence. I think once a kid or his family smells fishy, Cal and UK move on and move on quickly.

    • michaelb
      5:38 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Nocode- yea coach said ” if their is something shady about it , he walks ” .

    • 4everUKblue
      6:36 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      I would be we are among the cleanest MBB programs, Cal know if there was even a sliver of anything we would get the death penalty. I believe there is something very shady about Zion’s recruitment, KU tried to buy him and may have been successful until dUKe showed up and made their offer, wouldn’t be the first shady deal at dUKe but K is the teflon Don of MBB

    • 4everUKblue
      6:43 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink


    • bigbluenationmbb
      7:30 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Marvin bagley got large amounts of money the same way through his aau team his dad was the coach and made 250k from Nike to coah a little shady to me

  5. StuckinLville
    5:17 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    It’s Duke. Nothing will happen even when there’s proof. Same for UNC.

  6. addyjaxlarkin
    5:22 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Let it go there not even in the final 4 if the ncaa goes after all these kids who’s family’s took $$$ then lots of wins and titles will be vacated. These kids and families deserved this money anyway. The ncaa is the dirty ones using these kids to line the pockets of all the wrong people.

    • StuckinLville
      5:30 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      No actually they don’t. It’s called college ball for a reason. Nothing says they have to go to college in the first place. There are other options that will pay them.

    • addyjaxlarkin
      5:43 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      These kids deserve some of the money and if you don’t feel that way then I feel sorry for you. I don’t think you would be singing that tune if there was a better option for these kids and they were choosing to do that rather than commit to schools like Kentucky. You would be whining and crying and saying why can’t we pay these kids.

    • TPACAT
      8:27 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Give it up, guys. Addyjax sounds like one of these millennials who feels that anyone in an organization making more money than “the workers” must be evil…

    • 4everUKblue
      6:39 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Until the rules allow for them to be paid they don’t deserve the right to cheat and neither does the program. I feel sorry for you for rationalizing the right to cheat, must be a dUKey!

    • RealCatsFan
      6:41 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Yeah, my issue with this argument is that UK paid their dues back in 1988 – big time. Meanwhile UNCheat and dook GB have been making a living doing the same thing (or worse) with no repercussions. It’s time for the piper to be paid.

    • JT919
      6:42 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      They deserve to be allowed to use their own likeness to make money (merchandise sales, endorsement deals etc.). This is not that if true; it is bribery, which is illegal at all levels of society.

    • BBN in H-Town
      7:59 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      This is a narrow-minded stance in my opinion. They don’t deserve financial payments. They’re receiving top tier education, free room and board in lavish facilities, unlimited private tutoring, multiple high quality meals each day, and on and on and on. Furthermore, if not for athletic prowess, many of these kids wouldn’t be granted the opportunity to attend college in the first place. They’re essentially receiving for free what would cost an average person tens of thousands of dollars per year (on top of what most students already pay).

    • bigblue2018
      9:19 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

      These kids and their families don’t deserve any of the money. The NCAA and schools have been doing business like this for 100+ years, if you want to get paid out of high school go overseas. This is college ball and unless you play for Duke, UNC or Kansas you don’t get paid.

    • grammarpoliceUK
      1:54 pm April 7, 2019 Permalink

      My question is: this why wouldn’t a kid wanna go to Duke? After all, even if there’s no money under the table, where else can you get your parents a free million dollar home in a gated community?

  7. ukcamel
    5:23 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Coach K could hand Trump the gun he uses to shoot someone on 5th Ave. and get away with it.

    • IrishCat
      7:09 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink


    • BBN in H-Town
      8:00 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      While hosting a private server in his bathroom and disseminating classified information…

    • wyatts1
      9:22 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      God bless president TRUMP!! That’s mister president TRUMP to dUKe and their rat faced Coach.

  8. dkcr96
    5:29 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Everybody cheering this for duke better realize if all of this info comes out Kentucky will also be affected. Kentucky is a Nike school and has more nba players than any other school. Nike wants to place the best players at the best schools and hopes to get superstar endorsers out of it. I’m not saying Calipari knows or that coach k does, just that they could be a victim of the system. All I’m saying is sit back and wait until all the info comes out before throwing stones.

    • Mad Max
      5:50 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Not concerned AT ALL!!

    • dkcr96
      8:22 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Then your mad dumb, adidas already gave money to bam as proven by the fbi sting. Think all these pros we’ve had the last 10 years never got a taste of some money from Nike? Keep living in a fairy tale world.

    • 4everUKblue
      6:40 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Agreed Max!

    • wyatts1
      9:33 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      I somewhat agree with you dkcr96. I think some of the issues that not only UK fans but 99% of college basketball fans have is the different rules for different schools. Now of course majority of the 4-5 star kids coming outta high school has had what the NCAA would call benefits given to them but it doesn’t mean that the rules are enforced evenly to the college’s no matter what shoe company that’s playing the game. That’s the rub, schools like UNC who obviously cheated with fake classes should’ve been dealt with but most feels that because it was UNC that nothing happened because their above approach, duke also falls into this category. The NCAA is a joke and has always played favorites, so with those issues and the one and done issues, college basketball in it’s entirety is nothing like it use to be! NOTHING. Not sure how to fix or change things but forcing all to play by the same rules would be a start

  9. eyebleedblue
    5:30 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Players family will get blamed. Nothing will happen

    It’s a workaround for the rules, NCAA needs to figure out a way to compensate top level talent or it will lose its two athletic bread winning sports.

  10. bigbluenationmbb
    5:36 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink


  11. michaelb
    5:41 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    So where is the amounts ? He has the person , place and crime , why are the amounts not offered up? There’s a big hole in the story right off the bat .

    • JT919
      7:40 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      I believe ESPN listed the alleged amount in their article at 20k.

  12. Catcasey1
    5:44 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    No pay what so ever. Let kids do what they want to do In their career and leave college athletes to play college ball

  13. Mad Max
    5:50 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    NCAA statement ensuing-“coach K has again shown he is an innovator, wisely using his shoe contacts to help him land the top talent! Bravo!!”

  14. Cincy Cayt
    5:58 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink


  15. bpisforuk
    6:09 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Nike could be paying just to make sure Nike is front and center when it’s time for that shoe /clothing contract. They could say they hope Zion goes to a Nike school but may not mean “Go to Duke”. Unless there’s a connection to K or an assistant, nothing’s gonna happen.

    • 4everUKblue
      6:42 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Nothing will happen even IF it’s proven K or a staff member was involved.

  16. Rixter
    6:21 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Nick, I’m sure it was an oversight – and what you meant to say was ‘Michael Avenatti claims Nike paid Zion Williamson’s mom, Duke is “investigating” ‘

    I’m not much of a prognosticator, but I think I know how this “investigation” is going to turn out

    • RealCatsFan
      6:29 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Yep. “Move along here folks – nothing to see here.” “Round up the usual suspects.”

  17. RealCatsFan
    6:28 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    This will probably make the NCAA so mad that they will go ahead and vacate University-6’s 1986 and 1980 Championships.

  18. jaws2
    6:45 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    THIS + a billion!!

  19. dctawk
    6:55 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Let’s relax. Only schools that can’t repay the NCAA on the back end get the death penalty. We got 3 years probate and still stomped teams in the process…… Which brings me to my next point: if you are going to be legit for more than a few years, you have to go through Kentucky. Player OR team.

  20. 4everUKblue
    6:57 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    dUKe is investigating, loosely translated…dUKe is paying hush money and working on the cover up.

  21. runningunnin.454
    7:12 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    I don’t believe any of it; I’m watching the final four; and, they haven’t said anything about it. Somebody is trying to slander Duke’s great name with rumor and innuendo…$hit, almost got through it without laughing; now that’s why I can’t play poker, dammit.

  22. Racerr11
    7:40 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Not worried about us at all we don’t have to pay. Like others are saying if there were a sliver they’d hang us for sure. We are clean as Mr clean. Cals the man

    • dkcr96
      8:23 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      Look up naive in the dictionary

    • 4everUKblue
      10:54 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      dkcr, look up dumb ass in the dictionary because that’s what you are. Racerr11 is 100% correct, they’ve been after Cal and KY for years, no coach or program is more under the microscope than Cal and KY.

    • dkcr96
      8:58 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

      4everUKblue, Better yet look up homer in the dictionary. The fbi sting already shows adidas made payments to bam. Uk isn’t even an adidas school. Imagine what Nike has done with the 30-40+ 5 star players Uk has gotten the last 10 years. What you don’t realize is this is a nationwide issue, not a Uk, duke or whatever school issue. The end game for Nike and the shoe companies is to get the best players into their endorsed schools then to sign the superstars to shoe deals. The earlier they get to the kids or their handlers the better. This is different than joe booster paying a player to go to a school. I have no doubt UK does it’s due diligence on the players and their families before allowing them on campus. Problem is the shoe companies providing payments is a different animal and one their screening methods may not be able to detect. Anyway go ahead and believe we have had nothing but 5 star angels.

    • Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
      12:55 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

      I looked up naive and found pictures of people who believed the NCAA committee and the refs association isn’t getting paid by the ACC and it’s schools.

    • ukjaybrat
      6:14 pm April 7, 2019 Permalink

      Dkcr. You keep saying they proved bam got paid over and over like it’s true. But it’s not. The only thing they have is that bam is tied to money. That doesn’t mean that bam got the money. The working THEORY is that money was.paid to people to try to convince him to go to ncstate. And he didn’t. Which is why the
      money attached to his name was concidered a bad investment.

      And if you remember his recruitment, he had some bad blood going in with friends / family right before he committed to UK.

      Damn dude. Get your facts straight. Makes you look dumb when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  23. CoachCat
    8:26 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Ho Lee Chit

  24. Bruce Dickinson
    9:24 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Even if true, we know nothing will happen to duke.

  25. dbake
    9:32 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Ever notice how a lot of the big recruits we supposedly “miss on” end up with some type of recruiting violation accusations. I have began to realize that maybe we miss on them for a reason other than them not wanting to come to UK.

  26. CPACAT
    9:51 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    Duke Athletics will perform a thorough investigation, and will report to the media (tomorrow afternoon) that they found no instances of wrong-doing.

  27. CPACAT
    9:55 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    The NCAA will find Duke guilty and then they’ll slap UoLoL with another penalty

    • 4everUKblue
      10:56 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

      You’re a little late to the party CPA, RCF beat you to that one.

  28. Han
    10:14 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    A lot of Kentuckians tied up with cognitive dissonance on this one.

    They love the idea of Duke finally getting in trouble, but the guy accusing Duke also accused their political team’s captain, President Trump, so that makes him bad and a liar. What to do, what to do?

  29. chrislarkey
    11:29 pm April 6, 2019 Permalink

    I hope that pathetic place dUKe callls a gym burns down

  30. imabucket
    12:22 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    In my eyes I tend to agree that Kentucky may actually have a shot at coming out of this clean . Along with the reasoning above ,If you think about it ; Coach Cal started the one and done trend and recruited at an extremely elite rate up to about 2015-16. The past three years we have fallen off a tad and could very well be due to a very large scale of bribery going on in the NCAA.

  31. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    12:51 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    I would be happy if the just vacated the UCF win. Everyone who has ever seen a basketball play knows Zion fouled Tacko but they used it to pull him out of the game and then after the Zion miss a Puke player hooked and holded the UCF guy out of the rebound which gave Puke the win.

  32. Big Sexy
    1:14 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    Be careful what you wish for people. Who knows who all Nike has paid if true? It doesn’t seem Duke Is being implicated. However it would seem they would have to vacate most of this season for using an ineligible player. Then again nothing happened to UNC for much, much worse. All that said, the source, Michael Avenatti, is a piece of crap so nothing will likely come of it.

    9:01 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    If you look back and notice the trend of Cal going cold on certain players (most recently Bol Bol and Zion), I think we are relatively void of any violations. Of course the NCAA has a knack of turning a blind eye to the glaringly obvious violations during the same time period.

    • makeitstop
      9:09 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

      I think Cal walks if he sniffs a fishy deal. Knows he can get someone else.

  34. makeitstop
    9:08 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    The source for this “story” is about the least credible person on the planet, and u could get the woman’s name from the transcripts of the Adidas calls, or probably a simple background search. That said, if Nike wants to pay someone to tell them what would sell to the the top AAU players (“consulting”) isn’t it free to do so? Absent a wiretap about a “strong @$$ offer” or payments just bf an announcement out of the blue lije Brian Bowen, all u hv is easily denied innuendo. In other words, so far, the only “story” is the sleazy lawyer trying to extort Nike as is his M/O. If u get some other correlation, like timing of announcements, then u may hv a story. My question: why would Zion go for less than Bowen and Javonte Smart? Doesn’t make sense. $20,000 IS a small consulting contract u could prolly justify, and wouldn’t be enough to buy a top recruit, u would think.

  35. chrislarkey
    10:35 am April 7, 2019 Permalink

    Once a liberal savior, hopefully he brings dook cheating into the spotlight because everyone knows they do

    • Kyfanfav1984
      3:13 pm April 7, 2019 Permalink

      Coach K is probably trying to sell him on the potential of coming back to school and the benefits Zion would gain from it. Although, he probably slipped up a few times and mentioned the benefits the school and himself would get from his returning another year. What a joke.

  36. TomKat9698
    7:54 pm April 8, 2019 Permalink

    Need to find out when she was paid and see if out coincides with his sign ing with Puke.