Last night thousands of fans, including President Obama, packed Cameron Indoor Stadium to watch Zion Williamson and Duke play North Carolina. Williamson, one of the best players in the country, has wowed audiences all year with his ridiculous dunks and fans were excited to see him play in one of the biggest rivalry games of the college basketball season.
They never really got the chance.
Early in the first half, Williamson’s shoe–the Nike PG 2.5–completely fell apart, causing him to injure his knee. He didn’t return to action for the rest of the night. The Tar Heels won 88-72 to Duke.
Zion's shoe: destroyed 😳 pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
Nike came under fire almost immediately after the injury happened, since the faulty sneaker was the reason for Williamson’s early exit. The woes continued for the apparel giant this morning. The company’s stock dropped about 1.6 percent, according to Business Insider.
Nike is worth $130 billion dollars, and a drop of that much is the equivalent of over $1 billion.
Nike responded to the incident by saying “The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue” according to Darren Rovell, a sports business reporter for The Action Network.
While the severity of Williamson’s injury is still largely unclear, it has re-ignited a debate over whether high school players should be able to go straight to the NBA. Jay Williams, an ESPN analyst and a Duke basketball legend summed it up pretty well.
— JayWilliams.ETH (@RealJayWilliams) February 21, 2019
The NCAA does not pay its players, in any capacity. Tickets for last night’s UNC-Duke game were as high as $2,500. For context, a ticket for this year’s Super Bowl was just over $2,700 dollars, according to Myron Medcalf of ESPN. Some argue that it might even be smarter for him to prep for the 2019 NBA draft, where he’s expected to be selected as a top 5 pick.
For Nike, the reality is this: Duke teams have been wearing Nike shoes since the early 90s. High school and AAU teams around the country have partnerships with Nike. Other colleges from Division I schools wear the product too. The biggest college basketball star on the planet on the number 1 team in the country had to leave one the biggest games of the year because of an injury that their shoes caused.
We’ll see over the next several days how Nike will respond. Will they put him in a different shoe, maybe one that will sustain his weight(285 pounds)? Who knows. What’s clear is that Nike is in deep shit, for a lack of a better word, and is going to have to find a creative way to get itself out of this mess.