Mikey Williams carving new basketball path in NIL era



Mikey Williams is the first player of his kind. 

At just 17 and a junior in high school, he has 3.3 million instagram followers (more than a majority of NBA players), signed a marketing deal with Excel Sports Management last summer, and just last month became the first high school basketball player ever to sign a multimillion-dollar shoe deal with Puma. With the new Name, Image and Likeness rule in effect, he’s navigating the space as a pioneer.

“No one’s been through what I’ve been through,” Williams told Yahoo Sports. “I would try to use [another player] as an example, but I can’t think of anyone.”

Williams has been treated like a professional athlete since he was 14 years old. Fans line up outside and around the gym to see him play in a game. He takes countless selfies and photographs before and after games. He has been asked to sign just about everything from a kid’s forehead to a cellphone case.

“I’m still getting used to it, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “But I got nothing but love for all my fans.”

When you’re a high-profile player like Williams, everyone has an opinion. His ranking is too high. It’s too low. He’s underrated. He’s overrated. There’s a ton of pressure that comes with fame before these basketball players are even 18.

“Everyone has an opinion on my life,” Williams said. “And everything you see on social media, I don’t let people see the behind-the-scenes stuff, and that’s how I want it to be.”

Mikey Williams looks on during the Pangos All-American Camp on June 2, 2019.

Mikey Williams has a bigger social media following than many NBA players and in the NIL era, he has multiple options for the next step in his basketball career. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s not unusual to see NBA players sitting in the stands at Williams’ games. 

LeBron James, Deandre Ayton, LaMelo Ball and Cole Anthony have all pulled up to a game. Each player has taken time to give the young star advice, and it’s something Williams plans to do with young players coming up if he’s ever in the league.

“It’s love and it goes both ways. If I ever make it to the league, I’m definitely going to go to high school games and check out the young talent,” Williams said.

There are now many paths to the NBA besides playing in college. 

Williams has professional options with the new Overtime Elite team, G League Ignite, Australia’s National Basketball League and other professional leagues in Europe and China. He has said previously that if he played in college, he would want to play at an HBCU. However, many people in the recruiting world think Williams will opt for the professional route.

“I’m just looking at what the best fit is for me and whatever makes the most sense. They’re all good options, but I’m just looking for what’s best for me and when I can develop the most,” Williams said.

The 6-foot-3 guard will be eligible for the 2024 NBA draft.

NBA teams have known who Williams is for quite some time, thanks to his meteoric rise. There will be other players like Mikey Williams who take the high school basketball scene by storm. There will be other players who sell out gyms and travel every weekend to different events around the country. 

The difference is they will have Williams’ blueprint and him as a resource on how to handle things and a sounding board for advice.


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