Pelicans Spurs Basketball

Zion Williamson during the second half of a preseason game against the Spurs on Sunday.

Zion Williamson's much-anticipated debut in the NBA regular season will have to wait on an apparent third knee injury this year.

The No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in June, who played for one season at Duke and whose shoe deal has surpassed LeBron James' contract as the richest for a rookie in league history, has a right knee injury and will miss the New Orleans Pelicans' opener at league champion Toronto on Tuesday night. Sources told ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski that he would miss a period of weeks.

Williamson did not travel with the Pelicans to New York for a preseason game tonight against the Knicks after he suffered the injury against the Spurs on Sunday. He averaged 23.3 points and 8.8 rebounds during four preseason games and shot 71.4 percent.

Williamson sprained his right knee during Duke's home game against North Carolina on Feb. 20 when his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker tore apart, causing him to fall awkwardly.

"It was just one of those things where the shoe was kinda worn out because I had been practicing in it a lot and played a few hard games in it," he said in September, according to ShoeCollector.com.

The shoe destruction went viral immediately, having taken place in front a star-studded Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd that including former President Barack Obama, Baseball Hall of Fame member Ken Griffey Jr., film director Spike Lee, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and actress Hayden Panettiere.

Nike sent representatives to Durham the next day and ultimately to China to try to construct a shoe that would best fit his physique and game. Williamson is listed at 6 feet 7 and 284 pounds on his NBA team's roster.

He bruised his left knee during an NBA Summer League game on July 5 and was shut down for the Pelicans' remaining games. 

“I thought really he never should’ve played just because he’s been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told Forbes. “I don’t think he’s in the playing shape or the mental shape to play."

Later in July, Williamson signed the most lucrative contract in history for an NBA rookie, surpassing LeBron James in a deal worth five years and $75 million.

Tonight's game against the Knicks was the second to be televised by a cable network. The Pelicans also have been picked up for 11 games to be broadcast on TNT, ESPN or ABC, including a coveted slot in the five-game NBA Christmas Day lineup against the Nuggets.

Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game at Duke and led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight.

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Contact Eddie Wooten at (336) 373-7093, and follow @EddieWootenNR on Twitter.

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