College Basketball’s biggest rivalry and most-anticipated match-up of the year took an ugly turn for shoe manufacturer Nike on Wednesday night. Duke superstar Zion Williamson, an 18-year-old freshman projected to be the top pick in this summer’s NBA Draft was injured when his shoe blew out inside the first minute of the game when he tried to spin after planting his left foot. Williamson missed the remainder of the game and Duke lost.
Nike tried to limit the public outcry with a prepared statement. “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said in the statement. “The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
Paul George, the NBA star who designed the shoe manufactured by Nike that Williamson was wearing, spoke to ESPN.com about how he’s handled the situation: “I talked to Nike to see what went wrong, what happened with the shoe and I take pride in that. My shoes have been a successful shoe not only in college but in the NBA.” George also stated he had contacted Williamson and Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
On Thursday, Nike’s share price dropped one per cent and closed at $83.95 (€73.99) amid the very public discussion of Williamson’s shoe.
The market for Basketball shoes is very competitive with Nike faced with intense competition from the likes of adidas, Under Armour, New Balance and Puma who recently re-entered the market.
In a coincidental development from a timing standpoint, but one which could impact the future of 18 year-old basketball stars like Williamson, the NBA officially proposed on Thursday to drop the minimum age for NBA players from 19 to 18.
Meanwhile with Williamson leading the promotion for the match-up, ESPN recorded its highest overnight rating in eleven years for Duke-North Carolina according to Sports Media Watch.