When Duke basketball star Zion Williamson injured his knee early in a Feb. 20 game against North Carolina, one of the Nike sneakers he was wearing split open. They werePaul George 2.5 edition shoes, and Nike faced extensive criticism after the unusual equipment malfunction.
Williamson returned on Thursday night to face Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals. But Duke posted a picture on its social media accounts earlier in the day showing that Williamson had changed his footwear, shifting to the Nike Kyrie Irving 4s. The Celtics point guard, of course, spent one season at Duke before he was chosen with the first pick in the 2011 draft.
“He’s a talented player, so I think I expect great things out of him,” Irving said. “I don’t think the shoe will make a difference, but I’m happy he’s in the Nike brand. He’s a special player, so I’m just happy that he has some shoes that won’t deteriorate over time.
“He was really comfortable in the PGs, and he probably wore them a little bit too many times or whatever the case may be. I don’t know the exact thing. I’m just happy he’s out there healthy and playing. That’s all I care about. I don’t care what shoes he’s in as long as he’s in the Nike brand.”
Williamson had 29 points and 14 rebounds and made all 13 of his shots in Duke’s 84-72 win over Syracuse.
Duke team spokesman Mike DeGeorge described it as a standard practice for Nike to work with its partner schools, saying: ‘‘In special circumstances, Nike always works with schools to make sure the shoe is right.’’
Nike spokesman Mitch Germann said the company works with its programs ‘‘to ensure we are providing the best product for their athletes.’’