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Zion Williamson’s exploded shoe, explained

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Exactly what shoe was Williamson wearing, and who else wears it? Here are some answers to questions about this incident.

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Zion Williamson’s foot exploded through the side of his sneaker in the opening minute of Duke’s game against North Carolina, causing a knee injury that ended his night — and potentially the rest of his college basketball season.

Williamson’s injury turned out to just be a Grade 1 knee sprain, and he’s day-to-day. But we have questions about the shoe that broke.

What shoe was it, anyway?

It was the Nike PG 2.5.

The PG 2.5s are the second-to-last release in Paul George’s signature Nike collection that debuted in April 2018.

“The PG 2.5 is designed for the game’s most versatile players. It’s light yet strong, with a supportive strap and comfortable cushioning that responds to every fast, focused step,” reads a description on Nike’s website.

Several NBA players have worn the Nike PG 2.5s this season, including Wendell Carter Jr., OG Anunoby, Rodney Hood, Ben McLemore, D’Angelo Russell, and George himself. In total, 16 NBA players who have worn the shoe this season, according to Baller Shoes DB.

According to ESPN, 42 players wore the PG 1s during the 2017-18 season.

What was Nike’s response?

In a statement, Nike said the shoe breaking was “an isolated occurrence.”

“We are obviously concerned and want to wish 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.”

Calling it an “isolated occurrence” is misleading, since there are other examples of Nike shoes breaking suddenly on pro players. But Williamson is certainly the most high-profile example.

Is this shoe popular among non-NBA consumers?

The PG 2.5s have 10 reviews for an average of a four-star rating on Nike’s official website. They retail at $110, but are currently marked down to $93, making them less expensive than many signature shoes.

Most of the comments were positive, but one reviewer had a similar issue to Williamson.

I wore these only on a basketball court for maybe a month, and the traction area on the solve busted through the bottom. Would not recommend!!!

Has Williamson always worn this shoe?

No. Williamson played in the season opener vs. Kentucky in Kyrie Irving’s signature Kyrie 4s. You can tell by looking at the distinct Kyrie logo on the tongue of the shoe.

NCAA Basketball: Champions Classic-Duke at Kentucky Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Williamson wore Kyrie’s all the way up until Duke’s Jan. 5 matchup against Clemson. In recent games, his sneakers had a strap on them, indicating the black version of the PG 2.5s. You can also tell by the distinct hourglass-looking logo on the tongue of the sneakers.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Williamson, though, has dabbled with a few other Nike sneakers. He played in LeBron 16s against Virginia on Feb. 9.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

He wore the new self-tying Nike Adapt sneaker against Georgia Tech on Jan. 26:

He also wore the Kyrie 4s again in a Feb. 5 matchup against Boston College.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

A week later against Louisville, he went back to wearing the PG 2.5s.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Are the PG 2.5 built for a player like Williamson?

Not really.

The simple answer is that they’re built for Paul George, a slimmer, lighter athlete who is nearly as tall as Williamson, but weighs 65 fewer pounds. Pro athletes usually design sneakers that are comfortable for them, because they’re the ones that have to wear it, play in it, and be safe in it.

The players who have worn the shoe this season have similar body types to George. Fourteen of the 16 players who wore the shoe this year are guards or wings: George, Anunoby, McLemore, Hood, Russell, Antonio Blakeney, Chandler Hutchinson, Omri Casspi, Cory Joseph, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Jordan McRae. Only Ivan Rabb and Jarred Vanderbilt can be classified as big men, and both have lanky frames as well.

None of those players are built like Williamson, who is a tank with high-flying features.

What shoes should Williamson have worn instead?

Former pros Swin Cash and Cory Alexander said any of James’ signature shoes would have made more sense.

Then again, Williamson’s frame is so unique that not even the new LeBron 16s are perfect for him. How does one find a sneaker that can support a 6’7, 280-pound frame leaping, running, and cutting 30 to 35 minutes a night? That could be a reason why he’s experimented with so many sneakers this season. There might not be anything for him because there isn’t anyone like him.

Williamson may need to make his own signature shoe before finding anything that works for him.