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Sneaker Rankings: What Zion Williamson Should Wear When He Returns

Zion Williamson has yet to play since bursting through his PG 2.5 sneakers and leaving a Duke game with a mild knee sprain. With Williamson set to return in the near future, Sports Illustrated considers what sneakers he should wear when he steps on the court.

Zion Williamson has not played a minute for Duke since he suffered a mild knee sprain after he slipped 30 seconds into a game against North Carolina. That fall led to Williamson’s left foot bursting out of his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker. The incident instantly created a social media frenzy—even former President Barack Obama can be seen on camera mouthing, “His shoe broke.”

While Williamson is on track to return during ACC tournament play, the incident has created all types of questions about Zion’s potential future with Nike. Will he sign with Adidas or Puma now? Will he continue to wear Paul George’s signature sneakers? From now until April, Zion is obligated to wear Nike silhouettes during games due to the Blue Devils’ apparel deal with the Swoosh. The Crossover ranked which sneakers Williamson should wear once he returns.

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5. Nike PG 2.5

It would be interesting to see the first pair of sneakers that Zion laces up once he returns is the same sneakers he famously burst out of. Paul George’s sneaker models have been a favorite for NBA and college players. They are cheaper in price than the LeBron James or Kevin Durant models but they are still incredible performance shoes. If you look closely, it's easy to notice the sneakers were clearly worn down before the bizarre incident. If anyone knows about what it takes to come back from an injury, it is George, who injured his leg during an Olympic exhibition game. Nike granted PG with his own signature line once he returned and he has been incredible. He also talked to Nike about the Zion incident. George’s latest model is an ounce lighter than the PG 2.5, and every inch and pound counts when you're examining a massive human like Zion. While the PG 3 is fresh and new, I am not sure if the model is right for him. The only con that Zion would have about wearing the PG 2.5 again are the memories of his famous slip.


4. Nike Kobe AD

The Kobe AD is a beast when it comes to traction but its sleekness and height might not be the best option for Zion. Kobe models are influenced by soccer cleats—which are usually low-cut. Williamson has worn them on the sidelines at Duke games. They are comfortable and very responsive on the court, but I am not sure the mesh on the upper will hold up for someone like Zion over time.


3. Nike Kyrie 5

Kyrie Irving has one of the best signature lines in the NBA and they are a favorite for Zion, who has worn the Nike Kyrie 4 throughout most of the season. The best thing about the Kyrie 5 is the containment system that was inspired by the Venus Flytrap. If Zion can break out of that, we might need to find him a metal sneaker to wear. Inside the Kyrie 5 lays a Air Zoom Turbo unit that curves to wrap the bottom and sides of a players’ foot. With every quick change of direction, the shoe delivers responsiveness. Irving is an elusive player and is constantly making cuts to get to the basket. Zion is similarly always on attack mode and the shoe would cater to his strength. 

Williamson even said he prefers Kyrie models over LeBron sneakers in front of LeBron James Jr.


2. Nike Adapt BB

If Zion returned wearing the Nike Adapt BB, I am sure executives at the company would be thrilled. The Adapt BB is what Nike calls its most advanced sneaker to date: The shoe electronically self-laces—adjusting the pressure and fit on your foot. You can tighten or loosen the sneakers at the touch of a button. It is the most tested sneaker in Nike’s legendary history, and they are banking on this being the technology of the future. The sneaker is strong but very flexible on the court. Nike athletes such as Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum have become the main endorsers of the shoe, which is not a bad sign based on their playing styles. Williamson wore them during Duke’s matchup against Georgia Tech in January and he had a great game. If Zion wants to show that he is committed to a future with Nike—the Adapt BB might be his best option.


1. Nike LeBron 16

If anyone understands what it feels like to be Zion, it is LeBron. Williamson is the most hyped sneaker prospect since James signed a $90M deal with Nike in 2003. LeBron is a freak athlete and his shoes have been the best when it comes to durability and security. They are at times bulky but they work for athletes that play on power such as James and Williamson. LeBron designer, Jason Petrie created Battleknit 2.0, which is strong enough to contain James’s foot. Zion has worn the LeBron 16 this season but prefers sleeker models as mentioned. If Zion wants to avoid any other sneaker mishaps, the LeBron 16 is built to guarantee protection.