Williamson’s injury wearing Nike shoes tears basketball business apart

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NEW YORK

Shortly after Zion Williamson’s basketball shoe tore, Nike’s stock price hit $ 1 billion. The abnormal injury in one of the flagship games of the college basketball season immediately sparked debates on everything from the shoe maker to insurance issues and whether the likely choice of Duke University’s NBA Lottery. should risk his professional future by continuing to play for the best – now Blue Devils.

Williamson suffers from a mild sprained right knee on a daily basis and is progressing as planned, team spokesman Mike DeGeorge said Thursday evening.

But Thursday morning Nike, which made the shoes Williamson wore, was also feeling the impact of the injury. The company’s stock closed 89 cents at $ 83.95 on Thursday, for a $ 1.1 billion drop in market value as the sportswear maker became the target of ridicule on networks. social. A spokesperson said Nike had opened an investigation into what it called an “isolated” event.

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

The incident is “a major brand failure” for multiple reasons, brand expert Mario Natarelli, managing partner of MBLM in New York City, told CBS News. Beyond injuring the man many consider the country’s top college basketball player, the incident was “a highly visible failure in the structure of the shoe for a company committed to the performance and technology of its shoes. products, ”Natarelli said.

A darker side of the story is how it highlights silver sponsors like Nike pay schools which then require athletes to wear a particular brand, Natarelli noted. Nike has been the exclusive supplier of uniforms, footwear and apparel to Duke since 1992, ESPN reported.

“Again, let’s remember all the money that was put into this game… and these players are not getting any of it,” Utah Jazz goaltender Donovan Mitchell tweeted Wednesday. “And now Zion is hurt … something has to change.”

Still, as long as the case remains isolated, Nike is likely to recover and find ways to reverse or put a positive spin on the episode, Natarelli said. As he put it: “It’s hard to imagine that Nike won’t create a future shoe deal with Zion Williamson once he’s pro and the title writes itself – we’ve made up a new one. shoe to contain the strength that is Zion Williamson. “

Performing in front of a celebrity-strewn crowd – from Spike Lee to former President Barack Obama – Williamson was injured in the first minute of the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels as a Nike PG 2.5, from the signature sneaker line of the Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George torn apart. Williamson wears this model frequently during games and has not had any obvious issues.

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 slipped. The blue rubber sole detached from the white shoe, and Williamson’s foot slipped through the wide open space. He found himself awkwardly almost split, squeezing the back of his right knee. He walked over to the bench and a few minutes later he walked to the locker room, leaving the broken shoe under his chair.

George said Thursday he spoke with Nike to see what went wrong and what happened to the shoe.

“It hasn’t happened to me since I got in this shoe,” said George. “We have made three generations, now four of my shoe, of success. So I didn’t necessarily have a feeling about that part – the negative part of it. Honestly, my only concern was for Zion.

Since Duke is a Nike sponsored school, Williamson has a choice of shoes from that company.

“I’ve seen guys break through shoes without spraining their knees,” said coach Mike Krzyzewski. “He went down a few times where he slipped and saved the ball. This is what I thought happened. It goes so fast that maybe if there is something slippery, it has happened.

The injury also sparked a new debate over whether Williamson – the possible No.1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, if he left Duke after his first season – would be wise to end his college season in an attempt. to avoid injury. this could jeopardize his professional career. NBA Hall of Fame member Scottie Pippen pleaded for it a month ago, saying on ESPN that “I would shut it down.”

Asked to respond to those comments Feb. 5, Williamson turned to his locker room sidekick Mike Buckmire and asked, “Buck, would you hate me if I quit the season?

“I couldn’t do that to my teammates,” Williamson continued. “Again, thank you for seeing the confidence in me and the type of player I can become. But I love college too much to stop playing. I wouldn’t give up on that.

Now that he’s genuinely hurt, it’s unclear if his feelings have changed.

It is also not clear, if he decides to pursue his varsity career, if Williamson has an insurance policy to protect him in the event of injury, as many other elite varsity athletes have purchased.

DeGeorge could not confirm an Action Network report Thursday that Williamson had an $ 8 million impairment policy written by Winston-Salem-based International Specialty Insurance that would pay if he passed the 16th pick. in the June draft. ISI officials did not respond to phone and email messages on Thursday.

Impairment policies are not offered by the NCAA, but the governing body does offer disability insurance.

Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA allows schools to purchase impairment policies on a player’s behalf. She added that the NCAA is also facilitating a disability insurance program for players in five sports, including men’s basketball, in which athletes can purchase policies with pre-approved funding to protect against future loss of income due. to injuries sustained in college. Duke spokesman Jon Jackson said the university is providing athletes with the resource to purchase policies in limited cases, but declined to comment on specific cases.

There is no NCAA restriction on how much insurance a player can buy, or whether the player wants both types of policies, Osburn said.

A few years ago, former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore took out a disability insurance policy. He bought a $ 1.8 million insurance policy through the NCAA program. Lattimore had a clause in his policy that he would pay if he didn’t play four NFL games. Lattimore has never played in an NFL game, but only received around $ 270,000 from the police, in part because he got a signing bonus when he was drafted by the 49ers. of San Francisco in the fourth round.

He bought the policy ahead of its second season in 2011, then renewed it the following year. That season, he dislocated his knee in a game and suffered several torn ligaments when he was tackled. Lattimore is currently working as director of football player development in his alma mater.


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