Duke phenom Zion Williamson's Nike shoe blowout could have been written by Don DeLillo. DeLilllo is known for reimagining in his novels those strange moments of American reality that have a deeper signficance. The young basketball phenomenon's crash to the floor Wednesday night was one of those events.
Many strands of American culture fused into a new 33-second Zapruder film as the 6-7 gazelle Williamson fell to the court at Duke's claustrophobic basketball palace.
Williamson, the"one-and-done" freshman sensation, suffered a sprained knee, Duke coach and Nike client Mike Krzyzewski said after the No. 1 Blue Devils suffered a huge loss to hated ACC rival North Carolina Wednesday night.
It was all there: corporate money and malfeasance. The corruption and glamour of college sports. Superstar coaches who make millions as their players receive no pay and hope for future NBA riches. Excessive ESPN hype. Super Bowl prices for tickets. Former President Barack Obama in the audience. Twitter. You Tube.
After Williamson's injury, the chorus will rise for him to not play anymore this season, and wait for the NBA draft, where he's expected to go No. 1.
That echoes calls for an established NBA star, the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis, to not play anymore this year as he awaits a trade from the dismal small-market franchise to LA, or New York or Boston. Davis was himself a heralded "one-and-done" phenom, leading Kentucky to a national championship.
Williamson's injury just 33 seconds after tip-off cast an anti-climatic pall on the spectacle. The video of Williamson's collapse went viral on social media: "we will see it until we die," one shoe business executive said. Nike stock plunged.
The young star's soaring dunks promised heightened excitement for March Madness. His absence would be a deflated shoe for the event. But who outside of rabid Duke fans would blame the kid for stepping down?