Not a good day to work at Nike.
Not a good day to work at Nike.

Nike roasted over $1b calamity

IT'S not easy to overshadow Barack Obama but Zion Williamson did just that on Thursday (AEST) - and it was terrible news for Nike.

The former US president was in the house to watch Duke square off against the University of North Carolina (UNC) in one of college basketball's fiercest rivalries, as fans around the country tuned in to the nationally televised game.

Supporters went wild when Obama entered the stadium and other celebrities like film director Spike Lee and baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr also joined him in the stands.

They all wanted a first-hand look at the man destined to become an unstoppable force in the NBA and it didn't take long for Williamson to steal the limelight from Obama and Co. and send social media absolutely bananas.

But while the future No.1 draft pick has done that plenty of times with some outrageous feats of athleticism for Duke, this time it was his fashion that caught the eye - but for all the wrong reasons.

Williamson's Nike shoe exploded less than a minute into the blockbuster and the 18-year-old went down in a heap. He clutched his leg after hitting the floor before hobbling off to the locker room.

"His foot comes out of his shoe. That's unbelievable," one commentator said.

Duke later issued a statement saying Williamson would sit out the remainder of the match with a knee injury.

Williamson grabbed his right knee in pain after slipping awkwardly and falling when his left shoe fell apart as he planted while dribbling near the free throw line.

Williamson, the ACC's second-leading scorer at 22.4 points per game and arguably the most exciting player in college basketball, walked off with a slight limp but under his own power before heading back to the locker room with no shoes on his feet.

The calamity spelt disaster for Nike - who will be hoping to sign the teenage prodigy when he becomes available in April - because it happened in the most watched college game of the season. You know there'll be plenty of eyeballs on you when Obama rocks up but everyone watching will have been devastated when the main attraction was rubbed out by a fashion fail.

Some punters paid upwards of $US9000 for tickets to the game to catch Williamson in action. He's that good, ESPN basketball commentator Fran Fraschilla said last year he will make $1 billion playing the sport "effortlessly".

ESPN's Jay Williams also said the teen beast is in line for an $AUD1.4 million shoe deal.

Viewers were quick to flood social media to let Nike executives know - in case they couldn't figure it out for themselves - how damaging a look the exploding shoe was for the brand, and for their hopes of landing Williamson and attaching themselves to the $1 billion megastar in waiting.

Rival sportswear company Puma also hit Nike with a stinging sledge in a since-deleted sledge that read: "Wouldn't have happened in Pumas."

To make matters worse, NBA superstar LeBron James drew the attention of his 42.2 million Twitters to the incident.

Duke is four years into a 12-year deal with Nike as the exclusive supplier of uniforms, shoes and apparel. The private school didn't disclose terms of the 2015 contract extension.

Nike has had an exclusive deal with the university since 1992.