The shoe explosion heard ‘round the world.

Duke University basketball player Zion Williamson, his injury, and his shoes are dominating the news cycle today after he was injured in the first minute of the famous showdown between Duke and UNC Chapel Hill last night. How did it happen? His foot exploded through the side of his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker.

Yes, the knee injury is bad (and hopefully it’s a mild sprain), but that’s not what’s made this moment go viral. A few factors were at play:

  1. Williamson is expected to be an early pick in the coming NBA draft, and now the injury could potentially jeopardize his chances.
  2. Duke lost to UNC last night – 72-88.
  3. President Obama was sitting behind the UNC bench last night, and ESPN’s coverage captured him saying “his shoe broke.”

The result? Nike is facing a backlash from last night’s incident with its stock dropping and the brand facing a storm on social media. Nike sent a statement to the press that reads, “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.” But is that enough? After all, this isn’t the first time a player’s Nike shoe broke while on the court.

How, if any, will Nike further respond? They could get in front of the situation and talk about quality and recommit to further driving innovation, one of the brand’s core pillars, by discovering ways to reinforce their products. They could elevate the conversation to talk in-depth on equipment malfunctions in sports and how to prevent them. They could do a multitude of things to respond. We’ll be interested to see how this plays out for the iconic brand.