Sunday June 16th, 2019 8:51PM

Duke freshman star Zion Williamson returns _ with new Nikes

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Just about everything at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Thursday night was about Zion Williamson.

The Duke freshman's nearly flawless performance returning from injury had the college basketball world buzzing.

His athleticism, energy, engaging smile and thunderous dunks were all on full display.

And oh yes, so were his modified size-15 Nikes from Boston Celtics All-Star Kyrie Irving's signature line.

"I couldn't really tell you specifically if I wanted to," Williamson said of the shoe modifications. "I just know they're a little stronger than the regular Kyrie 4s, so I'd like to thank Nike for making these. But yeah, they felt very comfortable."

And Williamson looked comfortable in them on Thursday night, repeatedly making highlight-reel plays in an 84-72 win against Syracuse. He had an impressive return after missing nearly six full games, going for 29 points on 13-for-13 shooting — the best shooting performance without a miss in the tournament's 66-year history — with 14 rebounds and five steals in more than 35 minutes of work.

It was a much different look than the last time anyone saw him play in game. Nearly three weeks earlier, he went down in a near split, his right knee sprained and his left foot sticking out the side of what was left of his sneaker. He limped to the sideline carrying the destroyed shoe in his left hand during the opening minute of a Feb. 20 loss to rival North Carolina.

That game, Williamson was wearing the Nike PG 2.5, Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George's signature shoe. He had worn them frequently without an issue before the oft-replayed incident that even dealt a day-after hit to Nike's stock price.

Both sets of shoes typically sell in the $110 to $120 retail range on Nike's online store, but playing without the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson was even more costly for Duke. Ranked No. 1 at the time, the Blue Devils had been 3-3 with him out of the lineup.

And the shoe company spared no expense in ensuring there was not another incident.

It's unclear how many pairs of the modified shoes Williamson had on hand Thursday, though coach Mike Krzyzewski made a point of noting that Williamson is rotating pairs of shoes to avoid a repeat of that freak occurrence.

"He alternates the shoe quicker, so you're not wearing them too many games," Krzyzewski said, "because the wear and tear I think contributed to that blowout."

Krzyzewski said Nike sent a group of its representatives to the school after Williamson's injury.

"Right after the event, they sent their top people out here to figure out what went wrong the next day," Krzyzewski said. "And then those people went to China to actually look at the making of a shoe that would be very supportive.

"And then they came back within a week with different alternatives to make sure that it was done right. So their immediate great response was appreciated and it was something that we have grown to expect from our relationship with them."

Duke team spokesman Mike DeGeorge described it as a standard practice for Nike with its partner schools, saying: "In special circumstances, Nike always works with schools to make sure the shoe is right."

Williamson would qualify as special, with many projecting him as the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft he decides to leave school.

Many involved with Nike were ecstatic about the results.

"We're thrilled to see Zion returning to the court," Nike spokesman Mitch Germann said in the statement. "After working closely with the Duke Basketball team to examine the issue, we are confident this was an isolated incident."

Irving, a former one-and-done star at Duke, was told of Williamson's fast start after the Celtics' win against Sacramento Thursday night.

"I don't think the shoes really make a difference, but I'm happy that he's in a Nike brand," Irving said. "He's a special player. I'm just happy that he has some shoes that won't deteriorate over time. He was really comfortable in the PGs. He probably wore them a little too many times or whatever the case may be. ... I'm just happy he's out there helping them, playing."

Now the anticipation is what will Williamson do for an encore.

He and his fellow Blue Devils on Friday night get another shot at the third-ranked Tar Heels, who swept the regular-season series against Duke for the first time since 2009. Williamson barely played in the first game and not at all in the second.


AP Sports Writers Steve Reed in Charlotte, and Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.


More AP college basketball: and


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball, College Sports, AP Business, AP Sports - Men's College Basketball, AP Sports - NBA
© Copyright 2019
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
The Latest: Police say 49 dead in NZ mosque shootings
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the death toll has increased to 49 in shootings at two mosques
4:22AM ( 6 minutes ago )
Bangladesh cricketers avoid mosque shooting; match canceled
A cricket test between New Zealand and Bangladesh has been canceled after the visiting team narrowly avoided a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch
4:12AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Barcelona against haste of introducing bigger Club World Cup
The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament
4:09AM ( 19 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Jokic hits buzzer-beater to lift Nuggets over Mavs 100-99
Nikola Jokic hit a falling, one-handed shot as time expired to lift the Denver Nuggets over the weary Dallas Mavericks 100-99
2:36AM ( 1 hour ago )
Newly signed Le'Veon Bell feels 'amazing' about joining Jets
Le'Veon Bell says he feels "amazing" about becoming a member of the New York Jets and looks forward to doing everything he can to make quarterback Sam Darnold's life easier on the field
1:39AM ( 2 hours ago )
Dodgers' Seager plays SS for first time since Tommy John
Corey Seager played shortstop in a game for the first time since April 29, three innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in a minor league exhibition
12:35AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Sports
Guy, Salt help No. 2 Virginia beat NC State 76-56 in ACCs
Kyle Guy scored 29 points and second-ranked Virginia rallied to beat North Carolina State 76-56 in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
6:55PM ( 9 hours ago )
No. 15 K-State beats TCU 70-61 in Big 12 quarterfinals
Xavier Snead scored 19 points to lead No. 15 Kansas State back from a slow start to beat TCU 70-61 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament
5:59PM ( 10 hours ago )
LSU says Wade still suspended; coach seeks to resume duties
LSU counsel says Will Wade remains suspended until he talks to university officials; embattled men's basketball coach seeks to resume his duties
4:40PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
The Latest: TRESemme drops YouTube star over college bribery
Actress Lori Loughlin's daughter has been dropped by another company that advertises on her popular social media accounts as the fallout from a college-admission bribery case continues
7:53PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: URI got positive Georgetown coach recommendation
The University of Rhode Island says its athletic director called Georgetown University's athletic director this year before hiring a tennis coach now implicated in a college admissions scheme and received a positive recommendation from Georgetown
5:13PM ( 11 hours ago )
Some of Clemson defensive linemen workout for NFL executives
Half of Clemson's talented starting defensive front four worked out for evaluators from all 32 NFL teams
4:38PM ( 11 hours ago )
College Sports
China's premier denies Beijing tells companies to spy
China's premier says 'strong measures' needed to support economy, denies Beijing tells companies to spy
1:42AM ( 2 hours ago )
APNewsBreak: Feds to ease land restrictions across US West
The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling and other industry activities that are meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West
1:26AM ( 3 hours ago )
Tesla unveils Model Y SUV, expanding into popular segment
Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils sporty Model Y
1:09AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
NCAA committee convenes with extra attention for LSU
NCAA selection committee convenes with extra attention for wiretap-tainted LSU
4:49PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Top 25 Podcast: Talkin' basketball_ March Madness edition
The madness of March has already begun with conference tournaments in full swing and Selection Sunday looming
1:25PM ( 1 day ago )
BUBBLE WATCH: Saint Mary's win bad news for bubble teams
The NCAA Tournament's bubble got a little tighter on Tuesday night after Saint Mary's upset No. 1 Gonzaga to earn an automatic bid to the Big Dance.
9:39AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Sports - Men's College Basketball
Mitchell, Jazz back Westbrook, say Utah won't condone racism
A day after NBA star Russell Westbrook directed vulgar comments toward two fans, the Utah Jazz responded by banning one of the fans from their arena
7:07PM ( 2 days ago )
NBA fines Westbrook $25,000 for language; Jazz ban fan
NBA fines Westbrook for incident during Jazz-Thunder game, while Utah bans fan involved from all future events
5:36PM ( 2 days ago )
Oakley calls Knicks owner a 'bully' for fan altercation
New York Knicks great Charles Oakley is tired of 'bully' team owner James Dolan threatening to ban fans from Madison Square Garden
1:39PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Sports - NBA
Barcelona against haste of introducing bigger Club World Cup
The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament
4:09AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Democratic field taking shape with O'Rourke entry
The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with Texan Beto O'Rourke's entry into the race
4:07AM ( 21 minutes ago )
BUBBLE WATCH: Teams on NCAA bubble fear the bid thief
It's the time of Championship Week when programs on the NCAA Tournament bubble start to worry about bid thieves
4:04AM ( 25 minutes ago )
The Latest: UAE diplomat offers condolence on shooting
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch calling it the "latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia."
3:57AM ( 32 minutes ago )
Pilot quickly called in Ethiopia plane emergency: NYT report
Pilot 'in a panicky voice' quickly called in Ethiopia plane emergency, New York Times reports
3:54AM ( 34 minutes ago )