Tonight, all eyes were on Cameron Indoor Stadium, the stage for the latest chapter of the storied rivalry between North Carolina and Duke Basketball. This matchup in particular was intriguing due to it being the rivalry debut of high touted freshman standout Zion Williamson, the overwhelming favorite to be selected with the top pick in this year's NBA Draft. Prior to tip-off, tickets for the game were reportedly selling for an average of more the $3,000 and among the notable names in the crowd was none other than former President Barack Obama. All the ingredients were in place for one of the year's most exciting nights of basketball. Then, the Sneaker Blowout Heard 'Round the World took place.
Just 33 seconds into the first half, Williamson attempted to plant his foot on an apparent spin move and awkwardly fell to the floor as his foot busted through his school exclusive Nike PG 2.5 sneaker. He immediately grabbed his knee in pain, but was able to walk off the court on his own power. The extent of the injury is not yet known, but it was announced that he would not return for the remainder of the game.
Of course, the unfortunate turn of events for Williamson quickly became a trending topic on social media, where everyone from athletes to sneaker brands chimed in on the blowout. LeBron James, the face of Nike Basketball, sent some positive vibes the freshman's way.
Hope young fella is ok! Literally blew thru his 👟. 🙏🏾— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 21, 2019
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell expressed concern over the amount of money that was made from the game, with none of it kicked back to students and the sport's biggest star going down with an injury before he has an opportunity to sign lucrative contracts as a pro.
Again let’s remember all the money that went into this game.... and these players get none of it.... and now Zion gets hurt... something has to change @NCAA— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) February 21, 2019
Perhaps the first person to realize what happened was President Obama, who was seen on camera apparently shouting "His shoe broke!" following the play.
“His shoe broke”— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) February 21, 2019
Obama was shocked pic.twitter.com/tdwKtUJwtF
However, the reaction on Twitter didn't go without a bit of controversy. Puma Basketball, which re-entered the performance basketball footwear market this season, used the moment to tweet a subtle, but unmistakable shot at the competition. The tweet has since been deleted. The account also re-tweeted Puma athlete Terry Rozier making light of the situation before he realized Williamson was injured.
Typically on the other side of Twitter roast sessions, Nike has been a trending target of sneaker-aimed jokes throughout the night.
Zion Williamson : “I’m about to drop 40 on UNC tonight”— Ashanti 🐩 (@clifftothemound) February 21, 2019
Zion Williamson’s Nikes : pic.twitter.com/vYk0J6q6no
Nike headquarters pic.twitter.com/wJnRXB7PqK— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) February 21, 2019
“I just spent $10,000 on a ticket, I can’t wait to see Zion play”— Jake Repalone (@JakeRepNY) February 21, 2019
Nike shoes: pic.twitter.com/AeRTCPue5b
A bit of an innocent bystander in all of this, Paul George's mentions on social media have been flooded with comments since Williamson exploded through a pair of his signature sneakers.
@Yg_Trece yo dog, you gotta get them shoes checked out. We don’t want what happened to Zion tonight happening to you, since they were PG’s.— Thunder Gazette (@ThunderGazette) February 21, 2019
And yes, Zion's Shoe has its own Twitter account.
Zion and I will not be returning tonight. Sorry, ticket buyers!— Zion’s Shoe (@ZionWShoes) February 21, 2019
As of now, Duke is calling Williamson's injury a mild knee sprain and Nike issued the following statement regarding its exploded sneaker:
NIKE STATEMENT: “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 21, 2019