OKLAHOMA CITY — Grayson Allen was glued to the television screen at Donovan Mitchell’s home in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night as his alma mater Duke University was matched up against rival North Carolina.
There was a bunch of trash talk happening between the former college rivals-turned-Utah Jazz teammates, but just 36 seconds into the game that verbal warfare immediately turned into concern as freshman phenom Zion Williamson collapsed to the ground.
“Oh, my gosh,” Allen said, as he sat up immediately, waiting for a replay of the injury.
Then his nerves calmed down once the play didn’t look as gruesome as it did initially during live action.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” Allen recalled. “First of all, I didn’t see the shoe bust at first, I just saw him go down.”
Williamson’s sneaker split in half when the powerful 6-foot-7, 285-pounder planted his foot near the top of the key during that first quarter. He was wearing Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George’s signature Nike PG 2.5 sneakers when the incident occurred and is now listed as day-to-day with a Grade 1 sprain on his right knee. Ironically, the Jazz will face George and the Thunder as the first game out of the All-Star break on ESPN Friday at 7:30 p.m. MT.
“To bust through your shoe like that, that’s a lot of power to do that,” Allen said. “I’ve never had any issues like that so I was surprised to see that. I wasn’t sure that could happen with a shoe. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
George said he reached out to Nike representatives to see what went wrong afterward and wishes Williamson a speedy recovery in the process. His signature line is widely popular among his NBA peers, with his PG1 model being the most worn by active players during the 2017-18 season — according to ESPN.
“My only concern is for Zion, honestly,” Paul George told reporters after OKC’s practice on Thursday. “People were making a big deal about the shoe when everything should have been about Zion, his injury. That was the only thing I was concerned about was how bad it was and hopeful it wasn’t something that was too bad and it was something that he could come back from.”
Nike also released a statement in regards to the malfunction.
"We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery," Nike said in a statement to ESPN. "The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue."
Even after that incident, Allen continues to wear Nike sneakers and often wore exclusive Duke-themed George, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James models throughout his four-year college career and never faced any issues like that. As a rookie, Allen’s go-to shoe is the Nike Hyperdunk X, which he sported during the Jazz’s shootaround on Friday in Oklahoma City.
He isn’t the closest with Williamson, but did get to know him a little bit this offseason during summer pickup games on Duke’s campus. Some NBA stars and legends such as DeMarcus Cousins and Scottie Pippen have come forward in their beliefs that Williamson should sit out the rest of the year, to avoid further injury, but Allen doesn’t see that happening.
He plans on watching more Duke games — possibly even at Mitchell’s crib — with Williamson in the lineup.3 comments on this story
“I think people who say that have the right intentions in mind and you’re thinking about the best for the player because he’s obviously set himself up to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the draft next year,” Allen said. “But it’s up to him and I think if he’s fully healthy, knowing Zion just a little bit, he’ll want to play and there’s a reason that guys go to college to begin with.
“You want to play and be out there on the court, especially as a competitor,” he added. “Watching him play and talking to him a little bit, he plays hard, like super hard, and you can tell he enjoys playing so I don’t know if you can really keep him on the sideline healthy but ultimately it’s a personal decision.”