Zion Williamson’s shoe blowout on Wednesday night is the most high-profile incident of shoe failure ever. Here you had the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, playing in the biggest game of his college career, in a contest hyped for weeks as being the must-watch game of the college basketball season — then, just 33 seconds into the game, this happened.
Williamson wasn’t doing anything overly athletic, or particularly strenuous — he was just working the top of the paint against Luke Maye when his foot blew out of the side of his Nike PG 2.5s when he planted. It left Williamson on the floor, people stunned and a diagnosis of a “mild knee sprain,” prompting an official response from Nike, well wishes from athletes, and fans questioning whether Williamson should play again this season.
The last major shoe blowout happened in 2016 to Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. Upon landing after a big dunk Gordon’s foot blew out the side of his Nike, forcing him to leave the floor and get a new pair.
Two years earlier it was even worse. The 2014 NBA season was marred with the problem as Manu Ginobili, Andrew Bogut, and Tony Wroten all saw their shoes fall apart on the court, just like Williamson’s Wednesday night. However, none of those resulted in injury to the respective players.
Montage of exploding Nike shoes (Manu, Bogut, Wroten, Gordon, Zion) pic.twitter.com/FuXH2qqSiv— David Astramskas (@redapples) February 21, 2019
Nike was quick to issue a response following Williamson’s shoe blowout, calling it an “isolated incident.”
“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said in a statement (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.”
Williamson was wearing Paul George’s signature shoe, the PG 2.5. A review on Nike.store.com from October 2018 complained of the shoe blowing out, just like Williamson’s did.
The precise history of shoe blowouts is difficult to pinpoint. Attention to the issue really only came with the advent of the internet, when we paid attention to weird stuff like this. It wasn’t until 2014 when blowouts happened multiple times that people really worried about it being part of a larger issue, though one has to imagine that it happened in past decades too.
For now people are questioning how this happened to Williamson, why it happened, and whether it will happen again in the future.