One of the biggest rivalries in college basketball finished with North Carolina winning against Duke in a landslide, the score at the end was 88 - 72. Yet, the only thing everyone is talking about is the status of Zion Williamson's knee. Only 36 seconds into the game, Williamson planted his left foot, and his shoe fell apart. His leg slid and his right knee buckled as he was doing a split of sorts. Everyone held their breath while Zion grabbed his knee in obvious pain.
It is necessary to point out that knee injuries can be deceptive, so we don't know anything until we find out the MRI results - that being said, first indications are it's not as bad as everyone feared. The first promising moment was the fact Zion got up and walked off the court on his own. Later in the press conference, Coach K told that it has currently been graded as a "mild knee sprain," but further tests will be made.
There is no doubt Duke and Zion will make sure to get the right diagnosis and treat it as conservatively as possible.
Not good for Nike
Nike was the Greek goddess of victory, but this was a major loss for the Oregon company. The injury occurred as Zion's left shoe literally fell apart, and his leg slid on the court. The image is not good.
To be fair, we are talking about a 285 pound 18-year-old planting his leg to change direction. To put things in perspective, the man is bigger than Khalil Mack. It is understandable Zion's footwear takes a lot of wear and tear, as Coach K point out to Ryan McGee from ESPN. This is something that will need to be addressed in the future:
Krzyzewski did say that Williamson's feet had been slipping in recent contests, which suggested that he puts a lot of wear and tear on his footgear via the same speed and power that most had come to Cameron Indoor Stadium hoping to witness.
Nike released a statement saying: "We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of the utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue."
Their competitors were quick to comment and even quicker to delete the tweet. Fascinating how there are people who still don't understand that you can't get away with things like this.
We've written about this before, and we will write about this again. The NCAA is making billions on the backs of young athletes who in return don't get anything. We covered the enormous ticket prices for last night's game here, the cheapest ticket a few days before the game was around $2500.
Luckily it seems Zion did not suffer a severe injury (knock on wood), but this was a reminder how a shoe tear or a wet spot on the court can end a career and leave a player with nothing. No surprise NBA players called out the injustice right away.
It's clear the NCAA won't make any changes and will hold ground on their "amateur athletes that get scholarships" narrative. Only outside pressure can make them change, so the NBA and the basketball community have to consider making changes in draft eligibility to create leverage and help young athletes.
As the injury doesn't seem to be severe, this shouldn't impact Zion's draft status as the consensus no.1 pick in the upcoming draft. It will intensify the opinion he should just shut it down for the season. Even before the injury people floated the idea he already showcased his talent and that playing the rest of the season only bears risks - as last night unfortunately proved. Considering his competitive spirit, this is not a likely scenario.
All we can hope for is a full recovery and a 100% healthy Zion.