On February 20th, 35 seconds into the much-anticipated Duke v. North Carolina game, and while doing something he’s done thousands of times, Zion Williamson fell in pain. With no contact, and at a controlled pace, Zion seemingly attempted to plant his left foot, pivot, and switch direction, slipped, and fell.
As much as I like analyzing injuries, and playing the diagnosis guessing game, I would much rather watch sports without ever seeing anyone get hurt or injured.
Upon viewing the replay, it was easy to identify why Zion’s planting foot slipped. His shoe completely ripped apart, and his foot went right through it.
Given today’s replay technology, we have ample opportunity to analyze every detail of what we see. The questions of why and how immediately started circling.
The majority of the attention seems to be directed towards Nike and the quality of their shoes. There has also been attention on his training; what preventative measures could have, or perhaps should have been taken.
I’m all for reinforcing injury prevention protocols. I do this every day in my practice. However, here, the blame game does a great disservice to both the athlete, and the staff involved in his training and care. We have no idea what his program consists of. For all we know, he and his team have done everything right. But in this case, the shoe was the problem.
This injury was a freak accident. It should not be used to fuel the fires of injury prevention exercises and interventions.
The equipment simply failed. And that’s all there is to it.
Since we all love having an answer, a conclusion, I will address the real issue.
Choosing the right equipment.
I am not for or against any shoe brand. However I do recommend that if you’re looking to buy a shoe to play in, whatever your sport may be, pick a pair that’s worn by an athlete who either resembles you in size and/or in style of play.
Especially when it comes to a signature shoe.
There’s a reason why Nike tags state “Engineered to the exact specifications of championship athletes”.
Companies dedicate serious time and resources to design shoes that conform to an athlete’s size, weight, and performance requirements. After all, their brand has an interest in keeping their sponsored athletes healthy and performing at their best.
Especially for signature shoes.
Athletes work very closely with the design team, going through several wear tests and adjustments before the final product is used in game. Padding, fit, shoe weight, areas of support, breathability – absolutely everything is adjustable and adjusted for the athlete.
There’s a reason why you don’t see many point guards wearing LeBron’s shoes. They are far too cumbersome for a lighter player. A player who relies on quickness and agility would be better served wearing a lighter shoe like Paul George’s or Kyrie’s. Nike’s Paul George and Kyrie signature shoes are designed to be lightweight and provide support for players their size that rely on speed and sudden change of direction while offering ankle protection and grip. LeBron’s shoes are made for LeBron, and other players like him. Given Lebron’s size, his shoes often weight an extra few ounces and are more stiff than the average shoe, in exchange for the extra protection and padding he needs.
Here are a couple of versions of Lebron’s latest shoes:
Zion has been alternating between different Nike shoes since he joined Duke. During that game in question, he was wearing Paul George’s latest signature shoe, the PG 2.5. For reference, here are the Paul George shoes Zion was wearing:
At 285lb, Zion has 65lb on Paul George. And the differences don’t end there. Where PG is long and lean, Zion at 19, is bigger than LeBron. Their style of play is also very different. The difference in their size and style of play means that they are exerting different levels of pressure and force when they move – and therefore have different requirements when it comes wearing equipment to properly support them.
So yes, I just think Zion was unfortunately wearing the wrong shoes. Therefore, please consider the above mentioned factors when selecting a performance shoe for yourself or your athletes.