An investigation opened by Duke in April in response to allegations by lawyer Michael Avenatti found no evidence that Nike paid Zion Williamson or his immediate family to persuade the star to attend the program, the school announced Friday, according to The Chronicle's Derek Saul.
"As soon as Duke was made aware of any allegation that might have affected Zion Williamson's eligibility, we conducted a thorough and objective investigation which was directed by individuals outside the athletics department," Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations Michael Schoenfeld told The Chronicle in an email. "We found no evidence to support any allegation.
"Zion thrived as both a student and an athlete at Duke, and always conducted himself with integrity and purpose."
In a tweet from April, Avenatti suggested Williamson's mother, Sharonda Sampson, was paid by the apparel company at some point between 2016-17 in order to convince her son to enroll at the North Carolina school, which is sponsored by Nike. Avenatti, who is currently awaiting trial over an alleged attempt to extort the company, claimed the payments were made under a false pretense of "consulting services."
The lawyer's claims came amid a national corruption scandal involving the NCAA that resulted in bribery and wire fraud charges for former Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code, as well as then-aspiring agent Christian Dawkins.
After Duke announced the results of their investigation, Avenatti quickly responded, stating he was never contacted during the school's probe.
"I never heard from anyone associated with Duke in connection with my allegations or any investigation," Avenatti told ESPN's Mark Schlabach. "I was never asked a single question. I was never asked what information or documents that I was aware of. Who the hell conducted this investigation? Inspector Clouseau? The documents and the hard evidence do not lie. Zion Williamson was paid to attend Duke.
"(Coach Mike Krzyzewski) has made and facilitated payments to players for years. And when the truth comes out - and eventually it will - Coach K and Duke's reputation will forever and rightfully be tarnished. And if what I'm saying is untrue, I challenge Coach K and Duke University to file a defamation lawsuit against me tomorrow and we can let the chips fall where they may."
Williamson spent one season with the Blue Devils and was named the 2019 Naismith College Player of the Year. The New Orleans Pelicans then selected him first overall in June's NBA draft.