NCAA Basketball

Duke probe finds no evidence Nike paid Zion Williamson

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke University says an investigation has found no evidence that former basketball star Zion Williamson received improper benefits.

School spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement Saturday that a "thorough and objective" probe led by investigators outside the athletic department found "no evidence to support any allegation" that would have jeopardized Williamson's eligibility.

Duke athletic director Kevin White said in April that the school would investigate after lawyer Michael Avenatti accused Nike Inc. of paying Williamson's mother to persuade him to attend a college affiliated with the Beaverton, Oregon-based shoe company.

Avenatti said in a statement Saturday that he "never heard from anyone associated with Duke" about the investigation and repeated his claim that Williamson was paid to attend the school.

"The documents and the hard evidence do not lie," he said.

Williamson was taken first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA draft after earning Associated Press player of the year honors as a freshman at Duke.

Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to charges he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to publicize claims the sportswear company enabled payouts to promising young athletes and their families.

Avenatti has released material his attorneys say support his claims the sportswear company was paying amateur athletes.

He gained fame by representing porn star Stormy Daniels and sparring on social media with President Donald Trump.

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Updated September 7, 2019

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