NEW YORK (AFP) – Nike was in damage control mode on Thursday after US college basketball star Zion Williamson suffered a knee injury when his shoe shredded during a marquee game attended among others by Barack Obama and Spike Lee.
The Duke University forward, expected to be the top player taken in June’s NBA draft, was injured just 36 seconds into Wednesday night’s rivalry game against the University of North Carolina.
The 18-year-old Williamson, who has been averaging 22.4 points per game, was dribbling near the free throw line on his team’s first possession when he planted his left foot and his sneaker blew apart.
The blue sole of his Nike hightops tore away and Williamson’s foot poked out the bottom of the shoe.
The dynamic freshman dropped to the floor grimacing in pain and holding his right knee. He limped off the court and was removed from the game, which was being broadcast nationally on ESPN.
There was initial concern that Williamson may have suffered a serious knee injury but Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that it was a “mild knee sprain.’’
“I’ve seen guys bust through shoes but not sprain their knee,’’ Krzyzewski said. “We don’t know how long he’ll be out.’’
Duke, which was the top-ranked team in college basketball going into the game, ended up losing 88-72 to eighth-ranked North Carolina.
The 6ft 7in (2.01m) Williamson has been the most sensational player of this year’s NCAA season, thrilling fans with thunderous dunks and displaying incredible agility and leaping ability for a player who weighs 285 pounds (129 kilograms).