Zion Williamson injury: Should he stop playing in the NCAA?

Duke basketball's star player Zion Williamson left a game against North Carolina with an injury after breaking through his Nike sneaker less than a minute into the rivalry game.

Posted: Feb 21, 2019 9:20 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2019 9:20 PM

Zion Williamson is the biggest draw men's college basketball has seen in years. He is expected to be the top pick in June's NBA draft and is considered the best NBA prospect since LeBron James. At 18 years old, he's been a walking highlight reel for Duke.

The reason he's not playing in the league now, earning millions, is that he's not yet eligible. And while he waits, he can't earn a cent from his university or the NCAA.

Now, after suffering a knee injury when one of his shoes split wide open on the court, the question of whether he should be playing college basketball at all has been amplified.

From massive hype to a buzz kill

Per NBA rules, Williamson must wait one year after graduating from high school to be eligible for the NBA. So, he's spending a year playing for Duke. The hype has been legitimized not just with his dunks but by his all-around game.

Williamson was set to play Wednesday in arguably the biggest rivalry in college basketball: Duke was hosting the University of North Carolina, and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. and film director Spike Lee, were part of a crammed Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina. Tickets for this game hovered around Super Bowl prices.

But the massive hype turned into a buzz kill.

A little more than 30 seconds into the game, Williamson slipped on the court, and his Nike shoe exploded, apparently from the brunt of his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame. The shoe tore open, with Zion clutching his knee. He didn't return to the game, and Duke went on to lose at home, 88-72.

He has a Grade 1 (minor) right knee sprain, and the school says his status is day-to-day.

"We don't know how long he'll be out," Krzyzewski said Wednesday night.

His injury set the internet ablaze.

"Should Zion Williamson Say Goodbye to Duke After Knee Injury Scare?" one Bleacher Report headline asked.

"Zion Williamson should never play a minute of college basketball again," USA Today's For The Win declared.

Williamson wears those Nikes not because the apparel company pays him to do so. That's prohibited for an NCAA student-athlete. No, instead, Duke has a contract with the shoe giant.

Williamson's injury forced Nike to release a statement, which CNN obtained.

"We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," the statement said. "The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue."

Should Williamson sit out?

Williamson's trajectory brings to mind another athlete now playing another sport in college.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in January won the College Football Playoff national championship. Immediately, the same talk centered around his NFL prospects, with many pundits saying they believed he could play in the NFL right then, at age 19. Lawrence, though, isn't eligible for the NFL draft until 2021.

While many elite collegiate athletes can attend school on an athletic scholarship, they're not paid a salary for their participation in sports. The money in professional sports is so great that there have been some college football players who have skipped bowl games to assure their health ahead of the NFL draft.

Could this start happening in college basketball, too?

Hall of Famers Scottie Pippen and Tracy McGrady agreed in January on ESPN's The Jump that Williamson should stop playing and wait for the NBA draft.

"I would stop playing because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career," Pippen said.

"If I'm at least a Top 3 pick," McGrady said, "I'm out of here."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 821507

Reported Deaths: 10135
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin96935704
Cuyahoga81526972
Hamilton60913438
Montgomery41445399
Summit33096726
Lucas29981591
Butler29513227
Stark24608400
Warren18792139
Lorain17916207
Mahoning16710335
Lake15255135
Clermont15053104
Delaware1374277
Licking12595132
Trumbull12352301
Fairfield1211380
Greene11532132
Medina11033165
Clark10557264
Wood9901154
Allen9481126
Portage8802105
Miami880173
Richland8748116
Marion7305113
Tuscarawas7095174
Columbiana7047124
Pickaway699850
Wayne6729162
Muskingum665342
Erie5866117
Hancock537090
Ross526087
Scioto514862
Geauga478255
Darke456089
Ashtabula437268
Union429228
Lawrence428951
Mercer423387
Sandusky419062
Seneca411755
Auglaize410959
Huron409138
Shelby408521
Jefferson400466
Belmont392840
Washington367940
Putnam363672
Athens36229
Madison337928
Knox334922
Ashland329138
Fulton324243
Defiance317078
Crawford311968
Preble310034
Brown294419
Logan291829
Ottawa280534
Clinton278143
Williams268966
Highland261318
Jackson255243
Guernsey239425
Champaign239227
Fayette224529
Morrow22194
Perry220517
Holmes217562
Henry208847
Hardin203032
Coshocton197120
Van Wert196244
Wyandot189949
Gallia189126
Adams165515
Pike163416
Hocking161923
Carroll148016
Paulding139021
Noble117540
Meigs102421
Monroe95227
Harrison8578
Morgan78227
Vinton65613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 21°
Angola
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 28°
Huntington
Cloudy
28° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 20°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 21°
Lima
Cloudy
29° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 20°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events