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  • Associated Press This is the blown-out Nike PG 2.5 shoe worn by Duke star Zion Williamson that led to the freshman standout's right-knee sprain early in Wednesday night's game.

Friday, February 22, 2019 1:00 am

Shoe blowout hurts Nike

Stock price tumbles after freak injury to Duke basketball star

JOEDY McCREARY | Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. – Soon after Zion Williamson's shoe ripped apart, Nike's stock price took a hit.

The freak injury during one of the college basketball season's marquee games immediately sparked debates about everything from the shoe manufacturer to insurance issues and whether the likely NBA lottery pick should risk his professional future by continuing to play for the top-ranked-for-now Blue Devils.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke's loss to No. 8 North Carolina on Wednesday night that Williamson sprained his right knee and didn't know how long he will be out.

By Thursday morning, Nike, which manufactured the shoes Williamson was wearing, also was feeling the impact of the injury.

The company's stock price was down about 1 percent, or 97 cents, to $83.87 during midday trading Thursday as the sportswear manufacturer became the target of ridicule on social media. The shoe giant's stock ended the day at $83.95, down 1.05 percent from Thursday's opening bell. A spokesman said Nike has begun an investigation into what it called an “isolated” event.

“Shoes have failed before, but not as visibly,” said Matt Powell, a senior industry adviser for sports for the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Playing before a crowd littered with celebrities – including Spike Lee and former President Barack Obama – Williamson was hurt in the opening minute of the game as his Nike PG 2.5, from Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George's signature sneaker line, tore apart. Williamson wears that model frequently during games and hadn't had any obvious problems.

The 280-pound Williamson is one of the most powerful players in the game, and he tried to plant with his left foot as his right foot was slipping. The blue rubber sole ripped loose from the white shoe and Williamson's foot came all the way through the large gap. He ended up in an awkward-almost-split, clutching the back of his right knee. He walked to the bench and a few minutes later headed to the locker room, leaving the wrecked shoe under his chair.

George said Thursday he talked with Nike to see what went wrong.

“It hasn't happened to me as long as I've been in this shoe,” George said. “We've made three generations, going on four now of my shoe, of being successful. ... My only concern was for Zion, honestly.”