Nike shares slip on the heels of Zion Williamson sneaker malfunction

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Feb. 21, 2019, 3:44 PM GMT / Updated Feb. 21, 2019, 4:28 PM GMT

By Reuters

Shares of Nike Inc fell nearly 2 percent on Thursday, a day after a sneaker worn by emerging basketball star Zion Williamson split in half 33 seconds into a hotly anticipated game between Duke University and North Carolina.

The freshman center, who plays for the Duke Blue Devils, suffered a mild sprain to his right knee, according to his coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Williamson did not return to play in the match-up, which ended with No. 1 Duke losing 72-88 to the No. 8 ranked Tar Heels.

“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said in a statement.

“The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

Williamson was wearing the Nike PG 2.5 basketball shoe when he was injured, according to ESPN. The line of sneakers are a product of a collaboration between the world’s largest sportswear company and six-time NBA All-Star Paul George, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts after falling during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium.Rob Kinnan / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Nike shares were down about 1 percent at $84.03 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange, while its relatively thinly-traded shares on the Frankfurt market fell around 1 percent. Shares in rivals Adidas and Puma edged higher.

Nike is Duke’s exclusive supplier of uniforms, shoes and apparel under a 12-year contract that was extended in 2015 and has had an exclusive deal with the private university since 1992, ESPN reported.

“At this juncture, we are optimistic that while negative headlines might weigh upon Nike shares for a bit, any lasting damage to the company and its shares will prove minimal,” Oppenheimer analyst Brian Nagel said in a note.

Williamson, who averaged 21.6 points a game, has been tipped as the “next Lebron James” and is expected to be selected first in the NBA draft this June.

Krzyzewski said it was unclear how long Williamson would be out because of the injury.

The game between the interstate rivals and two of college basketball’s best teams was the marquee match so far in the season with tickets selling for thousands of dollars, according to multiple media reports.

Former President Barack Obama, director Spike Lee and star NFL running back Todd Gurley attended the game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the home court of the Blue Devils.

A video from the match posted on Twitter showed Obama, sitting courtside, expressing shock and mouthing the words, “his shoe broke!”

Twitter blew up with criticism and colorful remarks against the world’s biggest sports brand.

“Nike better give Zion the biggest shoe deal when he gets to the NBA…..Strong shoes that don’t come apart,” said one Twitter user.

This is not the first time Nike has faced controversy over the craftsmanship of its sportswear.

In 2017, the Beaverton, Oregon-based company faced backlash when its NBA jerseys ripped apart after several incidents with basketball stars, including James.

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