How’d you like to have been a Nike PR guru on Wednesday night? You’re sitting on the couch, munching away, watching No. 8 North Carolina play No. 1 Duke, when Zion Williamson makes a hard cut on the basketball floor and his Nike-brand shoe explodes.
The disaster happened just 33 seconds into the big game, and Williamson, who injured his knee, left the court, never to return.
Worse, how’d you like to be the Nike guy who thought up the ad campaign slogan “It’s gotta be the shoes!” Oh, it’s the shoes, all right.
And one more, even worse, almost unimaginable, thing: Let’s drop former president Barack Obama into the mix, put him courtside, and then have the TV cameras — somehow — capture him saying, “His shoe broke.”
Williamson, a 6 ‘7″, 285-pound foward who is widely considered the top college basketball player in the country and one of the top NBA prospects in the past decade, suffered a twisted knee after he broke through his Nike PG 2.5 PE. Luckily, the injury was just a mild knee sprain.
Here’s the blowout in slo-mo:
But the news that Zion will soon be OK didn’t help Nike Inc., not one bit. Even before the U.S. stock markets opened, Nike shares slid more than 2%.
The company quickly put out a statement. “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said, per Bleacher Report. “The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
Social media was merciless.
Some wag even created “Zion’s Shoe” on Twitter.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t help matters, especially after his team was routed by nemesis North Carolina 88-72.
“We’re very concerned about Zion,” he said. “It’s a mild knee sprain. We will know about length of time tomorrow. It’s stable. Obviously it has an impact. You lose the National Player of the Year on the first play.”
And Obama chimed in, tweeting:
So, get to work, Nike PR team. While it’s still February for all of us, your March Madness has come a week early.