Nike Flew To China (And Durham) To Develop A Stronger Shoe For Zion Williamson

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The return of Zion Williamson for the Duke Blue Devils was the biggest story amid the frantic conference championship week. The presumptive No. 1 pick in this spring’s NBA Draft had a monster return to the court, bringing massive dunks and an all-around game that couldn’t be contained by the Syracuse zone in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. Not even an attempt to trip him could stop the Blue Devils offensive attack led by Zion.

Williamson dominated on the floor against Syracuse and coverage of his return and the Nike shoes he wore also dominated the broadcast. ESPN reported during the ACC Tournament quarterfinals that Nike worked to build a special custom shoe for Williamson as he made his return to the lineup after a knee injury that resulted from an on-court incident against North Carolina in February where his Paul George 2.5 signature shoe literally exploded.

The Nike Williamson wore on Thursday night in Charlotte was not a George signature, but a Kyrie Irving shoe — apparently a Kyrie 4. And after the win over Syracuse to set up another meeting with the Tar Heels we learned just how much work Nike did to build a stronger shoe to contain Williamson’s feet. ESPN’s Allison Williams reported on the broadcast that Williamson’s “special needs” required Nike to put in some extra work on the shoe.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke to reporters on Thursday night and detailed just what Nike had to do to build a suitable shoe for Williamson, which included flying top officials to Durham to Duke’s campus and to where a stronger shoe could be manufactured in China a week later.

To Nike’s credit Williamson — who was in high spirits after the win — loved the new kicks.

There’s no real indication if Williamson will stick with Kyries as the ACC tournament continues and the NCAA Tournament tips off next week, but it’s clear Nike has put in a lot of effort to make sure what happened against North Carolina last month doesn’t happen again.