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With video: President Obama watches as Duke's Zion Williamson breaks his shoe

Associated Press
President Obama attends Wednesday's North Carolina-Duke game.

Durham, N.C. — Zion Williamson lost his shoe.

And there was nothing President Barack Obama could do — not even a presidential pardon — to keep Duke's star on the court.

During Wednesday night's game against rival North Carolina, the most exciting player in college basketball, and the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, was lost in the opening minute of the sport’s fiercest rivalry, one that helped turn a widely anticipated matchup — in front of yet another crowd of celebrities, this one including Spike Lee and Obama — into a blowout.

As his Nike shoe blew out, Williamson sprained his right knee on the first possession of what became top-ranked Duke’s 88-72 loss to No. 8 North Carolina on Wednesday night. In a video clip that went viral, Obama can be seen saying, "His shoe broke!"

Williamson didn't return to the game, and afterward, coach Mike Krzyzewski had little to say about the health status of his star player other than saying the sprain is mild.

It's unclear how much time he will miss for the top-ranked Blue Devils (23-3, 11-2 ACC).

Williamson averages 22.4 points, but his impact goes well beyond scoring. He also grabs 9.2 rebounds and has blocked nearly two shots per game.

Nike said in a statement that it was “concerned” and wished Williamson a speedy recovery. It said it was “working to identify the issue.”

Obama — who watched the game from a baseline seat near the Duke bench — said on Twitter that Williamson “seems like an outstanding young man as well as an outstanding basketball player. Wishing him a speedy recovery.”