No matter what the official diagnosis is on Zion Williamson’s injury, which he suffered in the first minute of Duke-UNC on Wednesday night, he should never play a minute of college basketball again.
The injury was a startling one, suffered just 36 seconds in and appeared to come as a result of Williamson’s shoe giving out, after it busted open on the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Former President Barack Obama had a meme-able moment in reacting to it, and it appeared that the whole thing was just that, a funny moment of a large man’s shoe breaking.
It quickly became clear it was more than that, though, and then the official word came from Duke: Williamson wouldn’t return. The diagnosis: “Knee.”
The injury Williamson suffered was a stark reminder of how much these young men risk playing college basketball.
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Looking at it bluntly, it’s sort of hard to believe. Williamson may have suffered a serious injury from a shoe that broke while playing a game in front of thousands of fans who had paid thousands of dollars to be there. Williamson wasn’t paid to play in this game. As Tammi Gaw pointed out on Twitter, that shoe that busted for Williamson? He was wearing it because Nike had a shoe deal with Duke, one worth no small amount of money, none of which Williamson will ever see.
I understand why Williamson may have wanted to go to Duke, how special this team is and how much it must mean to him to play in front of the crazies at Cameron. But he needs to think about his future. He has a professional career ahead of him, a bright one, and he is only jeopardizing it by playing in college.
Scottie Pippen argued that Williamson should have shut it down months ago, with nothing left to prove to NBA teams and only running the risk of injuring himself by staying on the court. People scoffed, but this time at least, Pippen was totally right. Whatever the prognosis, Williamson needs to protect his future. He’s already given us plenty of beautiful moments at Duke. He can let his teammates carry the load now and prepare for the next chapter.