A sole searching week involving hoop shoes
Only a few weeks removed from a column on the huge variety and artfulness of today’s basketball shoes, they start coming apart, are tossed off courts and go to auction.
A big blowout came with former president Barack Obama courtside watching Duke sensation Zion Williamson attempting to make a wild turn in a premier matchup with North Carolina on Feb. 20.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson, predicted to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, tore out the side of his Nike shoe and injured a knee just 36 seconds into the rivalry game.
“When you lose the leading candidate for national player of the year, you have a lot of adjusting to do,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski after the game, noting Williamson had a “mild right knee sprain.”
No. 5 North Carolina went on to win, 88-72, over No. 3 Duke.
Williamson sat the rest of that game and did not play when Duke lost to No. 20 Virginia Tech on Feb. 26.
“Zion Williamson seems like an outstanding young man as well as an outstanding basketball player,” Obama tweeted after the torn-shoe game. “Wishing him a speedy recovery.”
Others tweeted snide remarks to Paul George, whose PG 2.5 shoes Williamson was wearing.
None of this was George’s doing or fault. Enough on that.
Basketball sneakers do fall apart, whether you’re big like Williamson or a smaller, a less-known player like me.
I blew out the heels of a pair of Chuck Taylor All-Stars in the 1960s, although it was not during a basketball game – I jumped off a skateboard (metal wheels) going too fast down a hill.
A better known player playing very much in the shadow of Williamson is University of Indiana’s Justin Smith, who had an Adidas shoe fall apart last month.
I suspect Adidas’ stock did not dip like Nike’s $1 billion-plus plunge after Williamson’s nationally televised skid and tear.
After all, Nike is the baller’s brand, ahead of all others.
I can foresee commercials for Under Armour, AFA Sports or even Adidas shoes in the near future, perhaps during the NBA playoffs, boasting of their durability.
Did you know the last NBA player to bust out of his shoes was San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili in 2014?
The American-way is to change lemons into lemonade, which you’d think Williamson could do by selling his busted shoes – or even one shoe at a time.
A single Michael Jordan game-worn shoe – recently found in a mall renovation - was put up for auction last month with an expected selling point of $20,000.
But Williamson doesn’t own the shoes. They are provided for players under a contract Duke has with Nike.
The Blue Devils, which also earn millions in TV and other apparel deals, have not disclosed the amount.
But Ohio State said in 2016 that it extended its deal with Nike for $252 million through 2033.
The rest of us might consider the betting line for whether an NFL prospect will have a Nike shoe fall apart at the upcoming Combine.
Probably best to bet against it, since he odds are pretty high it won’t happen. Also, football cleated shoes are different than powerful gripping basketball shoes.
If Williams could hang onto the shoes, they might fetch enough in 20 years for an inexpensive car.
Or his estate might sell them for a bit more.
Lou Gehrig’s baseball game-worn hat recently was expected to fetch $200,000 at auction.
Another shoe bruhaha involved Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins receiving a technical foul after tossing an errant shoe off midcourt to the sidelines during play against the Charlotte Hornets.
Cousins, who is sensitive about injury after rehabbing nearly a year for an Achilles injury, was incensed after the game.
The NBA later rescinded the technical foul. The league, which is sensitive about objects flying into the stands, said after reviewing it decided no other punishment would be forth coming.
“Next time I’ll just step on the shoe and roll my ankle,” Cousins said after the game.
Cousins said the explanation he got from the official calling the foul was: “Basically, you can’t throw a shoe.”
One thing Nike may not be able to step over is a lawsuit by members of the Muslim community seeking a recall of a shoe with a logo on its sole that resembles the Arabic word for “Allah,” meaning God.
Another big headline involving a busted Nike shoe stemmed from the 2015 Berlin Marathon when Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge appeared ready to set a world record when the insoles on his custom shoes came unglued.
He finished, blistered, bloodied and the insoles of both shoes flapping, in 2:04.00.
If all this shoe mess has you finding a huge hole in your sole, consider entering a drawing for a pair of “Championship Tradition” Air Jordan 1s crafted by the well-known sneaker craftsman Dominic Chambrone.
You have until March 4 to enter the shoe contest, which requires a donation.
Al Camp is the sports editor at The Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.