Days before the highly anticipated Duke vs. North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, students were camping outside of the arena. Every year this game is major, but this year was going to be bigger.
North Carolina is one of the top teams in the country, while Duke has four players with NBA first round draft pick talent. These four came together to try to form one of the most unbeatable teams college basketball has seen in a long time.
One kid stands out above the rest, Zion Williamson. He is undoubtedly going to be the first pick in the NBA Draft this summer. But because of rules that are set in place by the NBA, he must play one year of NCAA basketball or be one year removed from high school (so playing professionally in another country basically).
But his choice to play college basketball could possibly cost him his future.
The anticipation to this game reached heights that were comparable to the Super Bowl. As far as ticket sales go, it may have been even bigger. Most tickets were going for a resale value of at least $2,000 and one ticket allegedly went for over $10,000. All to see Zion in person.
But just 30 seconds into the game, something unbelievable happened. As Zion went to stop, his massive frame proved to be far too strong for his Nike's. His foot literally broke through his shoe and it split in half. Because of this, it caused his other leg to twist in a way he wouldn't want it too and he ended up sustaining a knee sprain.
Needless to say, he would not return to the game. And all that money spent to see Zion was instantly vanished. Yet the monetary benefits for everyone, except the players, still remain.
This one broken shoe could change the landscape of this young man's career and the choices he decides to make going forward. As a college athlete with a scholarship, he can't accept any money or gifts of any kind while he is playing for Duke. This issue is one that may cause him to decide to shut it down for the rest of the season.
The only thing promised for Zion at this point is that is he definitely going to be the number one pick in the NBA Draft. That is, if he remains in good health.
It is vital for him to go into the league healthy. Not only for the fact that he needs to get on the floor as soon as possible, but also for his marketability. Every moment he plays for Duke is another second he is losing money. Had he been able to enter the draft straight from high school, he'd already be making millions of dollars. And his injuries would have been insured.
With the way the rules are currently set in place, he had to make a decision to help him get to the next level. But because of this one broken shoe, his decisions are now even more critical.
Let's say he decides to play, and play hard. Best case scenario is he helps win Duke a National Championship and he is known as the best One-and-Done player of all time. He gets drafted number one and becomes the most marketable young athlete in all of sports.
Worst case scenario, he injures his knee again and can't play the rest of the season due to a real injury. He now has a recurring knee injury for a kid who is over 275 pounds. Teams look at that, and now he goes somewhere between second to fifth in the draft. He is instantly put into a rehab assignment to get ready for the season.
So why risk it?
The answer is He shouldn't risk it. There is no winning in playing if you are Zion. The risk is not worth it. Winning a National Championship for college basketball does not mean what it used too, unless it's a group of kids that are all upperclassmen from a school that isn't able to get the top recruits.
Winning with four top recruits doesn't mean anything. And the NCAA is going to continue to benefit from him as long as he plays, yet he won't see a dime.
Zion, now is the time to shut it down. Pretend you're actually more hurt than you really are. Stop wearing Nike shoes forever. Become the number one pick in the draft and join James Harden, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Aaron Judge, Justin Turner, Marcus Peters, and Juju Smith-Schuster by signing the biggest deal Adidas have ever made.
College sports lives by "All for one, and one for all." But boy you gotta get to that paper! It's time to be "One for One."