Duke’s Zion Williamson blows out his shoe, injures knee, and Nike gasps in horror

College basketball star leaves game after bizarre shoe malfunction, sending Nike shares down over 2% premarket

USA Today/Reuters
Duke‘s Zion Williamson took a spill as his shoe fell apart in Wednesday’s game.

Nike Inc. joined the rest of the basketball world in holding their breath Wednesday night, as the company that once launched an ad campaign on the phrase “It’s gotta be the shoes!” must have been thinking “Pleasepleaseplease don’t let it have been the shoes.”

Don’t miss: Duke phenom Zion Williamson stands to lose millions if his knee issue lingers

Duke University forward Zion Williamson, the top college basketball player in the nation and one of the best NBA prospects in the past decade, was lost to a knee injury just seconds into a key game against North Carolina when his foot slid on the floor and his Nike-made shoe exploded, twisting his knee and sending him sprawling.

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Williamson left the game that was just 33 seconds old, and did not return. Duke said late Wednesday he had suffered a mild knee sprain — good news for those who feared much worse — but did not say how many games he’s expected to miss.

The 18-year-old Williamson is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The 285-pound forward has been averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds a game.

Social media was quick to pounce on Nike:

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.

Many of the tweets were not far off the mark. If the shoe was defective, or if Williamson loses trust in wearing Nike, the company could lose potentially the next great basketball superstar as a pitch man.

Duke fans — some of whom had paid near-Super-Bowl-level prices for tickets — went home doubly disappointed; the Blue Devils lost to their intrastate arch-rivals, 88-72.

Investors expressed their disappointment in Nike, with shares NKE, -1.18% trading down 1.5% Thursday. The stock is up about 13% this year, and up almost 25% over the past 12 months, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, -0.66% gains of 11% and 3%, respectively, over those spans. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.01% , which counts Nike as a member, has gained 11% in the year to date and about 3% in the last 12 months.

Reports of another shoe malfunction were making the rounds away from the court Wednesday. Owners of the Nike Adapt BB lace-less sneakers that can be tied and loosened via a smartphone app reported trouble with the Android GOOGL, +0.46% version of the app, an issue caused through a faulty delivery of new firmware, AppleInsider said. The Apple AAPL, -1.78% iOS version was not having the same issues, according to the report.

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