Nike Inc. (NKE) shares closed lower Thursday by just over 1% to $83.95 after one of the most popular collegiate athletes in the United States, and a projected No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, injured his knee after his Nike shoe collapsed during a nationally televised game Wednesday night in North Carolina.
Duke University star Zion Williamson, a 6-7 freshman forward who has dominated college basketball's headlines this year with his explosive dunks and tenacious defensive play, left last night's marquee match-up against the University of North Carolina less than a minute into the game following an 'explosion' of his Nike shoe that left him crumpled on the court in pain. Williamson's Nike PG 2.5 shoe appeared to separate from the sole when he planted his left foot near the top of the key and attempted to pivot to his right.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called the injury a "mild knee sprain" but was unable to determine when Williamson would be able to return for the number-one ranked Blue Devils, while Nike promised to investigate the incident.
"We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," Nike said in a 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."
Zion Williamson seems like an outstanding young man as well as an outstanding basketball player. Wishing him a speedy recovery.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 21, 2019
Duke University has a 12-year contract with Nike to supply its athletes with shoes and gear, a deal it extended in 2015 but whose terms it did not disclose. That same year, Nike inked a similar arrangement with the University of Michigan valued at $169 million over fifteen years.
The incident could have major implications for Nike as it attempts to hold off rival Adidas AG (ADS) from establishing further gains in the U.S. market while signing the game's next superstar.
Los Angeles Laker forward LeBron James, for example, who was signed to a record $193 million shoe contract with Nike when he entered the NBA in 2003, expressed his support for Williamson on Twitter last night and could prove instrumental in bringing the young player into the Nike stable.
Hope young fella is ok! Literally blew thru his ��. ����— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 21, 2019
Williamson, who has already amassed more than 2 million followers on Facebook Inc.s FB Instagram platform and is easily the most recognized collegiate player of the past decade, has been projected to earn as much as $1 billion from his professional basketball career through both salaries and endorsement deals.