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Nike’s shoe fail could cost it top NBA draft pick sponsorship

Wall Street may be brushing off Nike’s embarrassing sneaker explosion, but the famous apparel company is expected to suffer in other ways, including tougher competition for player Zion Williamson’s sponsorship when he goes pro.

Only a half-minute into Wednesday night’s game, Williamson — a Duke freshman and budding basketball superstar — went down with a knee-sprain injury when his white Nike sneaker ripped apart. Former President Obama, who was sitting in a courtside seat, appeared to exclaim “His shoe broke,” according to TV footage of the incident.

Nike shares fell 1.1 percent to $83.95 on Thursday, erasing more than $1.1 billion in market capitalization from the company. While analysts were skeptical that the snafu would significantly dent demand for Nike sneakers, experts say the company could still face some longer-term pain.

Nike’s rivals, who are already pouncing on its sneaker snafu on Twitter, could seek to use the viral moment to convince Williamson — a top NBA draft pick — to wear their apparel instead of Nike’s once he turns pro, experts said.

“Money is the most important consideration, along with your belief in the product — and that’s maybe not in Nike’s corner at the moment,” said sports lawyer Daniel Wallach.

Nike could also face litigation as a result of Williamson’s famous tumble at Wednesday night’s Duke-North Carolina game. But that will depend on whether the Duke forward’s 2019 NBA draft-pick status is impacted by his injuries, which have so far been diagnosed as minor.

“If he’s able to come back in the next game, or soon enough, then all of this goes away,” Wallach said. But if the injury was to prove more serious, then “this is a quintessential liability lawsuit,” Wallach said.

Nike products have been ripped apart on the court before, but the one that hurt Williamson was heard around the country. Not helping matters is the fact that the shoe came apart while the cameras were zoomed in on the 6-foot-7 player, giving millions of fans a close-up view of Williamson’s pained wince, as well as the failed shoe.

The superstar Duke forward, who is expected to file for the NBA draft this summer, is “progressing as expected,” his team tweeted.

The Portland, Ore.-based company issued a mea culpa, saying “quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

“Wouldn’t have happened in the Pumas,” the rival shoe company tweeted Wednesday night, before deleting it 90 minutes later.

“I’m sure Nike is going to get Williamson’s shoe and do their due diligence with the equipment guys and trace it back to the factory,” sports marketing consulting Joe Favorito told The Post.

Other high-profile Nike product fails include:

Players’ jerseys famously fell apart on the court at the start of the 2017 season — the first year of Nike’s eight-year deal as the league’s official uniform provider.

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tony Wroten lost the sole clean off his Air Jordan 10 during a 2014 game, while LA Clippers power forward Blake Griffin suffered a massive hole in his Nike’s during a 2012 game.



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