The perpetual money-making machine in sports apparel, Nike, rarely has setbacks — and few quite so bad as it did yesterday when the biggest name in college basketball suffered a knee injury caused by faulty footwear.
Less than a minute into a marquee matchup against UNC, Duke Blue Devils’ Zion Williamson went down to the floor, clutching his knee and writhing in pain.
Williamson, presumed by most experts to be the surefire first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was wearing a pair of Nike’s PG 2.5’s, and while attempting to cut back, the sole of his left shoe appeared to fall straight off, causing Williamson to slip awkwardly.
Duke coach Mike Kryzewski said after the game that Williamson had suffered a mild sprain to his right knee, and the timetable for his return would be unclear.
It’s a massive embarrassment for Nike, not only because of the significance of the player involved, but the magnitude of the matchup — less than a month away from March Madness, the biggest event of the college basketball calendar.
Though the everlasting image should have been of Williamson dominating in their gear, Nike will instead have to live down the grim sight of the young star wincing, or of former US president Barack Obama clearly declaring “his shoe broke”.
“His shoe broke.”
President Barack Obama knew what was happening as soon as Zion Willamson went down
— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 21, 2019
Nike took an immediate blow following the blowout, with share price dropping around 1.3 per cent to US$83.73, costing somewhere in the realm of US$1.45 billion (AUD$2.1 billion).
Paul George of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder — the namesake for the PG 2.5 — commented on the incident, saying that he had talked with Nike, and expressing disappointment that a product he took pride in had failed.
“My shoe has been a successful shoe not only in college but in the NBA.
“A lot of people been in it, a lot of people been wearing them, so I don’t necessarily know.
“But it’s never happened to my knowledge before, so that’s tough”.
In a statement to ESPN, Nike said: “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery.
“The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance.
“While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue”.
Rival brand Puma initially made light of the incident, tweeting that it “wouldn’t have happened in the pumas”, but deleted the post minutes later.
Puma has deleted their tweet. pic.twitter.com/7pPitJ20zP
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 21, 2019
The setback to Nike’s reputation likely won’t last long, considering the brand’s dominance in the market, but for the time being, it’s a definite sore spot (and a sore knee).