Miami (CNN)As Zion Williamson remains sidelined by a knee injury, the Duke basketball star's decision on whether to return to the court as an unpaid college athlete is still a hot topic among current and former NBA players.
Dwyane Wade on Zion Williamson: 'You hope and pray nothing happens'
"That was a scare," Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade, who played two seasons at Marquette before going pro, told CNN. "You don't want something to happen and he becomes a "30 for 30" (documentary) of what could have been, you know?"
Williamson slipped and ripped a hole in his sneaker in the opening seconds of Duke's loss against North Carolina on February 20. He has not returned to the court since, with his status listed as "day to day" ahead of Duke's game against Miami on Saturday.
The 18-year-old phenomenon -- known for his thunderous dunks and exceptional skills for his 6-foot 7-inch, 285-pound frame -- is widely forecast as the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft, which would guarantee him roughly $18 million for his first two seasons. Forbes estimates a sneaker deal will pay another $50 to $100 million.
Currently, Williamson receives free tuition, room and board, along with a modest cost of living stipend at Duke.
"Someway, somehow we have to figure out a way (for) athletes to get paid at a younger age," Wade said. "This is their job. Obviously they go to school, but their job is to play basketball."
As a high schooler in Chicago, Wade worked at a fast food store to earn money, and sees top college basketball players as no less deserving of a salary.
"My job was working at KFC. I got paid for it, right? And I wasn't even bringing a lot of revenue to KFC. You know, these young athletes are bringing in a lot of money."