True to his name, Duke’s rookie phenom Zion Williamson has wreaked basketball havoc of biblical proportions since his college debut back in November. With each earth-shattering transition dunk, acrobatic block, and impossible feat of athleticism, his mythical status continues to grow. A recent report from the Wall Street Journal revealed that the force that Williamson generates while bruising through opposing defenders is equivalent to that of a head-on collision with a jeep travelling 10 miles per hour. Already one of the most recognizable basketball players on the planet, it is likely that Williamson will be the first selection in the NBA draft in June.
On February 21st, the Duke Blue Devils faced their arch nemesis, the University of North Carolina, in college basketball’s most-anticipated game of the regular season. Fans paid upwards of $2000 a ticket to watch Williamson’s anticipated coronation as the greatest product to ever come out of a storied Duke program. Thirty-six seconds into the game, however, Williamson planted his left shoe into the hardwood floor and potentially changed the future of Duke’s season. The sole of the shoe exploded out from beneath his monstrous frame, and Williamson fell to the ground, writhing in pain.
Fortunately, Williamson only suffered a mild knee sprain. However, the injury initially appeared to be far worse, and seeing the most celebrated basketball prospect of the last decade risk his career with no financial reward to show for it has reignited the discussion of NCAA player eligibility. After graduating high school, many analysts believed that the high-flying prodigy could transition immediately into the NBA. However, the NBA’s “one and done” rule stipulates that all athletes must be over the age of 19 and one year removed from graduating high school before they are eligible to enter the league.
There are three significant implications of Williamson’s nearly disastrous injury: First, many believe that the NBA should abolish the “one and done” rule, allowing talented high school players like Williamson to immediately enter the league. Williamson and his peers are more than just a source of entertainment for millions of fans across the country. They are teenagers thrust straight out of high school and into the national spotlight, often desperately seeking to provide for their families and end the cycle of generational poverty. The second implication is less likely to come to fruition. Despite generating millions of dollars of revenue for the NCAA, Williamson will not see a penny of it. Duke’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski, on the other hand, makes nine million dollars a year, while NCAA president Mark Emmert makes almost three million dollars a year. The final implication of Zion’s injury pertains to Nike, the brand of shoes that Zion was wearing when he received the injury. Nike’s stock plummeted by 1 billion dollars following Williamson’s freak injury because of people questioning the quality of the company’s product. The sneaker company’s formerly stainless image has taken a major hit in recent weeks in the wake of the incident.
Duke fan Jake Rosen, ’20, had this to say about the loss of Williamson. “Zion Williamson was a huge loss for Duke this season… I think that his injury could change things for all high school and college hoopers in the future. He could easily have made big time money in the pros right out of high school, but couldn’t because of the rules in the NCAA right now.”
Chase Medrano, ’20, added, “Although it’s great having these superstars every year, for the players, it’s too risky. For example, if Zion’s knee injury was more serious his draft stock would have dropped and he would missed out on millions of dollars, all because he was forced to play due to the current rules in place.”
Overall, Duke fans as well as basketball fans in general have seen the major effects of Zion’s minor injury for the league, Nike, and his experiences as a young and talented player.