Next Generation: Zion Williamson

Next Generation: Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson - New Orleans Pelicans Basketballer - is being heralded as the next big thing in basketball, he is midway through his opening season in the  NBA (the league is due to resume from the COVID break at the end of July) and is producing some record numbers for a rookie. So who is he? Why is he so highly rated? What will we see from him in the future?

 

Zion Williamson for Duke

 

Zion is the son of a track sprinter mother and college American Football playing father, who stand at 5ft10 and 6ft5 respectively, so it's safe to say he was genetically suited to sport and basketball particularly. He played Soccer, American Football and Basketball growing up but as his mother was the coach of a youth basketball team he took that most seriously and developed plenty of skills playing against kids four years his senior.

 

He was 5ft 9 at age 13 and weighed 55kg, above average height for his age but not on-track to reach 'NBA tall', between 8th and 9th grade (Year 9 and Year 10 in England) he grew 5 inches and began to show promise. He was recognised for his talents across South Carolina but hadn't reached national fame until his Sophomore year (Year 11)  where his extravagant dunks went viral and he was now famed for his size, the 5ft9 55kg boy was long gone. Behold a 6ft6 behemoth who weighed 123kg when he graduated from high school, only 3kg shy of the heaviest active NBA player. 

 

 

With national attention came a heap of 5-star scouting reports and Zion had a plethora of options for which university he'd like to continue his journey at, he went on to choose Duke University. As a freshman at Duke, he took off exactly from where he left Spartanburg Day School, with big dunks and a super physical playing style. He was playing basketball with the stature of a Linebacker in American Football and would drop his should like he was breaking tackles in a contact sport too.

 

 

He was not without fault though, physical dominance throughout school allowed him to dribble the ball close to the basket with ease and he was over-reliant on his stronger left hand. For him to make it to the NBA he'd need to add some additional strings to his bow, like most professional athletes Zion has a great 'growth mindset' and relished the opportunity to improve his game. He has dreamt of the NBA since 7 years old, a few critiques to his game weren't going to stop him!

 

 

Zion's college highlight reel (video below) shows just how dominant he continued to be whilst working on his weaknesses. However, his athletic prowess is so clear and obvious he was destined to succeed, he has incredible power for his size, with a vertical jump of 45 inches (114cm) he doubles the MVP record of 77cm and has been known to touch the top of the backboard! His performances were so impressive ESPN created 'Zion Cam' so viewers could watch him throughout the game. Zion spent one season in college basketball before announcing his eligibility for an NBA draft pick such was his superiority at this level.

 

 

 

The New Orleans Pelicans had the first pick of the 2019 draft and wasted no time in choosing Zion. As the season began he was carrying an ankle injury he picked up at Duke, this allowed him to spend more time learning from the senior squad players and practice for a few months before his debut.

 

 

His debut arrived on January 22nd 2020 and he looked understandably nervous, giving away five turnovers, some loose fouls and bobbled passes. By the 4th quarter, Zion settled and lit up the arena with a stunning 4 minute period where he scored 17 straight points for the Pelicans.

 

He is an incomparable athlete - no basketballer in the past has moved as freely as him with the muscle and weight that he carries. It is apparent Zion can pave a new path in the NBA, his subsequent games up to the COVID recess haven't been without mistake, but what rookie season isn't? With him, on the court, the Pelicans have outscored opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions - better than the LA Lakers managed with LeBron James on the court during the same number of games! For a rookie season, he is producing excellent numbers and he is the most exciting basketball talent that has stepped foot on the court since Lebron James 17 years ago.

 

Keep an eye on him - he's the next generation!

 

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