Zion Williamson has built a reputation for being a physical powerhouse, with various highlight reels of his performance showing just how much of a dominating force he can be. He’s earned the approval of notable celebrities, with names like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and former President Barack Obama singing his praises. However, it would seem that the basketball prodigy is set to become a major financial influence as well.
On February 20, while playing in a high-profile rivalry game against the University of North Carolina, the Duke University forward, who is projected to be the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft, was betrayed by his faulty Nike shoes. Williamson fell and busted his knee, with the resulting injury keeping him on the sidelines as top-ranked Duke fell to UNC.
One commentator remarked:
“His foot comes out of his shoe. That’s unbelievable.”
Williamson’s injury occurred less than a minute into the first quarter of the encounter. His team, obviously concerned and devastated by the loss of their star player, went on to lose the star-studded match 88-72.
Nike, the manufacturers of Williamson’s shoes, immediately felt the impact of his injury. Shares of the sports apparel manufacturer were down as much as 1.6 percent in premarket trading on the morning of February 21 and had lost 1.01 percent as of Thursday afternoon.
In a statement concerning the issue, the company said:
“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.”
In addition to Nike’s stock plunge, shares of its competitor Under Armor were up more than 2 percent before the opening bell had even rung. Puma’s basketball account weighed in on the fiasco, mocking Nike in a now-deleted tweet that reads: “Wouldn’t have happened in the pumas.”
Sports apparel manufacturers are in a constant battle to get endorsements and sign some of the most popular and established professionals, as well as prospects that are seen to have bright futures.
Zion might be a college player, but he’s one college player with a massive profile. For a brand that hopes to sign the teenage sensation when he becomes available in April, last night’s event spelled disaster. Viewers were quick to jump on Twitter to roast Nike. Lakers superstar LeBron James was also drawn to the incident along with other NBA commentators.
Brand analyst Nathan Komp explained that the Nike brand was built for many years on their promise to provide customers with the same high-quality, high-performance products that are being used all over the world by professional athletes across many sports.
Komp stated that Nike still has a chance to handle the PR problem correctly and even use it as a means to reassure its customers of its commitment to quality and performance.
“And at this point, we suspect this is a contained issue unlikely to broaden to any lasting concern for the stock.”
Zion Williamson Image from Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports / File Photo