Zion Williamson’s Nike shoe failure: other players with faulty sneakers

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The world briefly stopped spinning on its axis Wednesday night when Duke star Zion Williamson’s shoe exploded.

Williamson slipped about 30 seconds in the Blue Devils game against rival UNC, then …POUF! A busted Nike caused the freshman to collapse. He grabbed her knee and eventually limped to the locker room, never to return to the game. Coach Mike Krzyzewski confirmed after the game that Williamson had sprained his knee and that he shouldn’t miss any important playing time.

The world, which began to spin again, collectively let out immense relief that Williamson’s injury was no worse.

While college basketball is still reeling from this crazy mishap, this is unfortunately not the first time that a basketball that explodes has brought down a basketball player.

We take a look back at some incidents of recent years, including a particularly troubling 2014 season for Nike.

Manu Ginobili: The Spurs star went to plant his foot to stop Pistons goalie Rodney Stuckey when his foot pierced the sole of his shoe. Ginobili walked over to the bench wearing his Nike around his ankle like it was a prop.

Andrew Bogut: The exploded Nike trend of 2014 continued with Bogut’s foot ripping off his shoe during a game against the Hawks. He ended up giving the faulty basketball to an attending fan. (You can see the incident at around 1:50 in the video below.)

Tony wrote: The entire sole of Wroten’s Jordan X fell off as he ran for the basket. He continued to run for a second before realizing what had happened, only to turn around and see the rubber sole on the ground.

Andrew Gordon: In 2016, Gordon’s sneaker literally burst at the seams in the second half of a game against the 76ers. The tear started at the toe and worked its way around the right side of the shoe.

Basketball players aren’t the only ones experiencing an exploding shoe fiasco. Lions goalie Frank Ragnow missed a snap against the Vikings in Week 16 last season for the same reason. After planting his foot to block a running game, the sole of Ragnow’s cleat came off and the coaches entered the pitch thinking he was injured. One of the trainers ended up running to his locker to grab him a new pair of crampons.

Professional runners have also suffered shoe accidents. Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge spent much of the 2015 Berlin Marathon with his Nike’s insoles sliding inside his shoes. He still managed to win the race but finished within seconds of the world record set the previous year. Kipchoge was testing a prototype of the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, which he then wore to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016, then set the world record of 2:01:39 in the 2018 Berlin Marathon.

In 1993, Olympic gold medalist Qunicy Watts lost the sole of his custom Nike sneakers in the 400-meter final at the 1993 World Championships in Germany. Nike’s marketing manager for Tom Hartge’s management later said he had lost sleep over the incident and called it “embarrassing.” Watts was also upset, which is understandable.


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