In the previous 248 meetings between the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tarheels basketball fans have been left with a lifetime of memorable moments. In the 249th installment between these two heated rivals, it only took 33 seconds for this game to make its mark in the annals of this blood feud.
Heralded freshman and likely No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA Draft Zion Williamson was injured half a minute into the contest after his sneaker exploded after attempting to come to a sudden stop. Williamson left the game with a knee injury and did not return. The Tarheels defeated the Blue Devils 88-72. Early report are that Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain.
With so much at stake in this young man's future, I'm here to ask the question: Should Zion Williamson play another game for Duke University?
Zion Williamson goes down seconds into Duke's contest against North Carolina.
Thirty-six seconds into Zion Williamson's initiation to the Duke/North Carolina rivalry, he's down on the court with an decimated sneaker, a sore knee with his collegiate career and much more flashing before his eyes. Williamson took a hand-off pass from Cam Reddish on the left side, he dribbled to the right where he was picked up by Carolina center Luke Maye. As Williamson attempted to reverse his dribble and spin to the left, his left leg slid awkwardly as his foot went completely through his sneaker. Williamson immediately grabbed his left knee before he was helped up by teammates and walking off the court under his own power.
After unsuccessfully testing the knee, Williamson walked to the training room where he was met by his parents and brother where they watched the game in a room away from the team.
One can only imagine the content of those conversations.
This was the most highly anticipated game in the series with tickets going for as much as $2,900. Zion Williamson is on pace to become the National Player of the Year as well as the number one overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, with one possible destination being the New York Knicks. Blessed with freakish athletic ability for man his size, Williamson is also in line to make millions in endorsement deals as well as a sneaker contract.
So again we ask the age old question: With no financial stipend as a student athlete despite bringing in tens of millions to Duke University and dodging a catastrophic bullet, why should Zion Williamson ever suit up in a Duke uniform again.
You'll have those who say he's obligated to the university because he's scholarship student and "owes" the university that much. On the flip side of that coin, what Williamson and his teammates bring to Duke University through the basketball program dwarfs the scholarship monies they were granted. It's like looking at a professional player who has outplayed their current contract and to be honest Williamson did that the day he committed to Duke University.
Williamson's No. 1 jersey is sold throughout school stores on the campus and will one day hang from the ceiling of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but he'll never make a dime for wearing it. His now fabled sneaker which someone is sure to pay a ridiculous amount of money for can't be sold by him without suffering drastic repercussions.
Had Zion Williamson blown out his knee tonight, there would've been plenty of head-shaking and "that's a shame" chanting, but not much in the way of student athletes being compensated, because the banner of collegiate athletics needs to be upheld.
Collegiate athletics has become a three ring circus with the ringmaster collecting money hand over fists while student athletes with exceptional talent are asked to be content with three hots and a cot.
We've seen lives change from career-ending injuries and even death with little to no compensation to athletes or their families outside of a Lloyds of London policy. It's time for a precedent to be set in student athletics and tonight could be the beginning of that movement.
Zion Williamson could be a transcendent player at the next level. Why should he wait until then to make his mark on the game?
After all, it only took former Duke Blue Devil and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving 11 collegiate games to become the No. 1 overall pick.