CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Almost everything in the Atlantic Coast conference tournament on Thursday night was Zion Williamson.
The almost irreproachable performance of rookie Duke who was coming back from an injury had shaken the world of college basketball.
His athleticism, his energy, his engaging smile and his booming dunks were all on display.
And oh yes, it's the same for his signature line Nikes size 15 of Kyrie Irving, star of the Boston Celtics.
"I can not tell you specifically if I wanted to," said Williamson about the changes to the shoe. "I just know that they're a little stronger than the normal Kyrie 4s, so I'd like to thank Nike for making them, but yes, they felt very comfortable."
And Williamson was there Thursday night, playing several times in a win at 84-72 against Syracuse. He had an impressive comeback after missing nearly six full games, scoring 29 points on 13 shots in 13 attempts – the best no-fault performance of all 66 years in the tournament's history – with 14 rebounds and 5 robberies in more than 35 minutes. working.
It was a very different look from the last time someone had seen him play in the game. Nearly three weeks ago, he found himself almost split, his right knee s' is trampled and his left foot has passed the side of what was left of his shoe. He limped up to the sideline with the shoe destroyed in the left hand during the first minute of a defeat to North Carolina on Feb. 20.
For this match, Williamson wore the iconic shoe of the Oklahoma City Thunder star, Nike PG 2.5, Paul George. He had often worn them without trouble before the repeatedly replayed incident that had even had an impact on Nike's course of action.
The two sets of shoes usually sell for between $ 110 and $ 120 on the Nike online store, but playing without the Williamson 6-foot-7 and 285-pound was even more expensive for Duke. Ranked No. 1 at the time, the Blue Devils were ranked 3-3 with him.
And the shoe company spared no effort to ensure that there would be no other incident.
It is unclear how many pairs of modified shoes Williamson had on hand Thursday, although coach Mike Krzyzewski was keen to point out that Williamson is rotating pairs of shoes to avoid a repetition of this abnormal event.
"It alternates the shoe faster, so you do not wear them too much," said Krzyzewski, "because wear and tear contributed to this rash."
Krzyzewski said that Nike had sent a group of its representatives to school after Williamson's injury.
"Immediately after the event, they sent their best collaborators here to figure out what was wrong the next day," Krzyzewski said. "And then, these people went to China to study the manufacture of a shoe that would provide considerable support.
"And then they came back in the week with different alternatives to make sure everything was well done, so we appreciated their immediate response and we came to expect that we expected our relationship with them."
Duke team spokesman Mike DeGeorge described it as a common practice for Nike with its partner schools: "Under certain circumstances, Nike is still working with schools to make sure that the shoe is correct. "
Williamson would be considered special, and many consider him the number one choice in this year's NBA project, he decides to leave school.
Many people involved in Nike were pleased with the results.
"We are delighted to see Zion return to the field," Nike spokesman Mitch Germann said in a statement. "After working closely with the Duke Basketball team to examine the problem, we are convinced that it was an isolated incident."
Irving, a former duo at Duke, was informed of Williamson's early start to the game after the Celtics' win over Sacramento on Thursday night.
"I do not think shoes really make the difference, but I'm glad it's in a Nike brand," Irving said. "He's a special player, I'm just glad he has shoes that will not deteriorate over time." He was really comfortable in the GPs. a little too often or whatever the case … I'm just happy that he helps them, that he plays. "
Now, anticipation is what Williamson will do for a reminder.
Tar Heels, ranked third, swept the regular season against Duke for the first time since 2009. Williamson barely played in the first game and not at all in the second game. .
Sports AP editors Steve Reed in Charlotte and Kyle Hightower in Boston contributed to this report.
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