Tuesday morning, Law&Crime reported on evidence that Michael Avenatti‘s accusation that Nike paid the mother of basketball star Zion Williamson so that Williamson would go to Duke was possibly based on a hoax. Now, Avenatti claims that the real hoax is the story that he fell for a prank and didn’t have real evidence for his claim.
The supposed origin story of the Zion Williamson allegation was initially reported by Deadspin. The publication included a screenshot of a text exchange purported to be between Avenatti and an unidentified individual. That unnamed person claimed to have sent Avenatti a phony invoice showing that Nike paid Williamson’s mother Sharonda Sampson (Deadspin also included an image of the invoice). About an hour later, Deadspin reported, Avenatti posted his first tweet about Sampson getting paid. This was after he had previously accused Nike employees of paying basketball stars DeAndre Ayton and Bol Bol.
Avenatti now tells Law&Crime, however, that no such text exchange took place, and that the report was wrong.
“I never received anything from this nutcase,” Avenatti said in an email. “They fabricated an exchange via text message and duped Deadspin and now you.”
When pressed on how he did get information about Nike supposedly paying Zion Williamson’s mother, Avenatti said he had an inside source at the athletic wear company.
“It is from a Nike employee and I learned of it approximately 14 days prior to the tweet I sent out,” he stated. “Shortly thereafter, it was provided to the government.”
As for the screenshot of the text exchange that Deadspin published?
“Anybody can make a fake text message exchange these days using an app that mimics a number and by resetting the time on their phone,” Avenatti claimed.
Williamson is now the presumptive no. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which will be held on June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
[Image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images]