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.
Zion's shoe: destroyed 😳 pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
Barack Obama pointing out the fact that Zion’s “shoe broke” will forever go down in history pic.twitter.com/pVFqEBgbFo— ment nelson (@mentnelson) February 21, 2019
Zion Williamson is officially a Marvel character. Who explodes a shoe with a simple foot plant?— Brad Evans (@YahooNoise) February 21, 2019
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.
That the shoe blew out on National TV. That the shoe blew out for Duke-UNC. That the shoe blew out on Zion Williamson. Awful look for Nike.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 21, 2019
Nike rep is cringing after that hi-top blowout that nearly injured Zion.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) February 21, 2019
There goes Nike's chances of landing Zion— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) February 21, 2019
Nike head office after Zion ripped through his shoe: pic.twitter.com/Mq1MruBY4R— Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 21, 2019
Duke’s Nike contract after Zion blows out his shoe #UNCvsDuke pic.twitter.com/Jre3NKUyPo— Sean Ash (@SeanWTHR) February 21, 2019
Live like at shoe companies right now ready to get Zion #DukeVsUNC pic.twitter.com/i79YTWbANL— Ian Williams (@IWilliams95) February 21, 2019
Some also had jokes involving Michael Jordan, a noted Nike endorser and former Tar Heel.
Durham police should be looking for someone who could get Nike to make Zion's shoe explode. Suspect is 6-foot-6, 210, answers to GOAT, has rings on six fingers, and has a dossier that shows a former Chapel Hill address.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) February 21, 2019
The blown out Nikes that Zion Willliamson left under the Duke bench have vanished. I'm assuming back to Michael Jordan's secret lab. https://t.co/WLBsPvZ4uR— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) February 21, 2019
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.
So we gon act like Zion Nike’s ain’t just rip in half🤦🏽♂️. #BBB #GXNG— G3 (@LiAngeloBall) February 21, 2019
👀 Since deleted ... #Zion pic.twitter.com/DgL0IhLLhn— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) February 21, 2019
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.
Hope young fella is ok! Literally blew thru his 👟. 🙏🏾— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 21, 2019
Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game.... and these players get none of it.... and now Zion gets hurt... something has to change @NCAA— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) February 21, 2019
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.
Not about that. It’s about NBA Zion saying “Forget Nike. They almost ruined my knee in college. Give me a pen and the under armour contract Rich Paul.” https://t.co/AZ6CBR7Ayg— Mark Dondero (@MarkDondero) February 21, 2019
“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.”
Read more from The Post: