Nike has been outfitting Duke’s basketball team since 1993, but it’s possible that the sports-apparel giant was never so happy with the arrangement as this year, given that among the current group of Blue Devils is one Zion Williamson. For his part, Williamson was never under more of a spotlight than Wednesday night, when the front-runner to be taken No. 1 overall in June’s NBA draft squared off for the first time this season with Duke’s arch-nemesis, North Carolina.
Unfortunately for Williamson and college basketball fans everywhere — and very unfortunately for Nike — Williamson didn’t last long against the Tar Heels, because he was forced from the game in the first minute with a knee injury. The mishap occurred as the 285-pound forward was planting his left foot to pivot — and his shoe exploded.
While the episode only added to the burgeoning, Chuck Norris-esque myth-making surrounding Williamson, the inability of the shoe to stand up to the rigors of being used by the 6-7 forward made for a very, very bad look for Nike. Not surprisingly, the Internet was only too happy to make that point right away.
Some also had jokes involving Michael Jordan, a noted Nike endorser and former Tar Heel.
Meanwhile, LiAngelo Ball suggested on behalf of his family’s company, Big Baller Brand, that those lousy Nike products couldn’t hold a candle to BBB shoes. Puma reportedly tried something similar before deleting its tweet.
LeBron James, though, was more concerned for Williamson’s well being. Fellow NBA star Donovan Mitchell took the opportunity to remind his followers that top college basketball players receive just a tiny fraction of the income they generate for their schools and the NCAA overall.
Later in the first half, it was reported that Williamson had suffered a knee injury and would not return to the game. There wasn’t much to joke about with that news, but it did prompt some more negative views of his shoe manufacturer.
“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," a Nike spokesman told The Post in a statement via email. "The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance.
"While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
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