Feb 20, 2019; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts after falling during the first half against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports - 12201420
Williamson had to leave the game with a sprained knee.
Image: Rob Kinnan/USA Today Sports

Nike issued a statement wishing 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,” it said.

Duke, meanwhile, said it was uncertain how long Williamson would be out, but that his knee is stable.

The whole scenario is a PR mess for Nike, which is premised on helping athletes perform better. The company has had other sneakers blow out in the past, but it’s rare. Nike does extensive testing on its shoes, and plenty of large, fast pro and college players wear them without incident. But to have such a prominent star injured in such a high-profile game during a blow out of one of its sneakers doesn’t look good.

It wasn’t the first PR problem for Nike that day either. User reports began surfacing yesterday of technical issues with the app controlling its $350 Adapt BB smart basketball sneakers,  which were only recently released to the public. Nike has promoted the sneakers as a game-changing technology, and the app as the interface for a new kind of relationship with a performance product, enabling users to enhance the capabilities of the sneaker over time. Users complained of the app syncing with one foot, but not the other. For such a high-profile product, its start has been less than flawless.

The company is now working to save face on both fronts.

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