Social media makes Jada Williams a face of high school NIL


SAN DIEGO — It’s mid-afternoon and Jada Williams is starting a live stream on Instagram. In a heartbeat, more than 1,000 of her 671,000 followers join the show and start typing questions and comments.

Williams does her best to follow the comments and questions that roll by. She laughs and interacts with fans, whether it’s about her basketball career or what shoes and clothes she should wear on an upcoming trip.

If there’s a face of the bold new frontier of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) at the high school level, it might as well be 17-year-old Williams, who is a senior point guard at La Jolla Country Day in San Diego. Inspiring and charismatic, she’s constantly updating her feed with photos and videos from her 6 a.m. basketball practice, everything to do with her high school team and women’s baskets, and her fashion sense.

Social media is a big part of NIL, which allows athletes to get paid without jeopardizing their eligibility to compete. There are certainly bigger names in the prep ranks, like Bronny James, son of LeBron James, and Arch Manning, the third generation of the first quarterback family. James has more than 10 million followers on social media and Mikey Williams of San Diego’s San Ysidro High and a Memphis Commitment has more than 5 million.

A fixture on social media since she was 11, Jada Williams is notable for her flair for engagement. With the rise of NIL, she has put her basketball skills and social media presence into six major endorsement deals, raking in six-figure sums in total each year. These include Spalding, Gym Shark and Move Insoles, which was co-founded by NBA star Damian Lillard.

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She moved from suburban Kansas City with her mother, Jill McIntyre, and an older sister to enroll in the same high school whose alums include WNBA star Kelsey Plum, and to capitalize on the fact that California is the first state to high school NIL admits.

Williams’ videos of crazy basketball shots first caught her attention on social media and eventually led to endorsement deals.

“As a little kid, everyone expected the boys to do all the crazy stuff,” Williams said. “I’ve done 360 ​​layups and between-leg layups and people have never seen that in a girl. It made a lot of people go, ‘Oh my God.’

“Then a lot of girls started doing it, and then we just all started a women’s basketball community that we’re fighting for now, to get equal rights and stuff. It’s kinda cool to see.”

Williams began interfering with her interest in fashion. “I’m Jada even without basketball,” she said. “And then it kind of took on a life of its own. I had to get used to that at a young age. But now it’s something funny. I don’t stress about it, but it also helps me get a lot of endorsement deals. This is my platform that I use to kind of trigger that.”

She broke away from UCLA and then committed to Arizona in late summer, where she announced her decision during an Instagram Live. Eventually she was joined by some current Wildcat athletes.

One of their former club coaches, James Parker, recalls that a game a year ago had up to 60 children gathered at a baseline, all hoping to meet Williams. She has managed not to be overwhelmed by the attention and says she sees her social media followers as family rather than fans.

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“That’s how I got here, and that’s why I make sure to keep thanking them because they follow me too,” she said.