Duke Basketball: Zion Williamson’s physicality equivalent to LeBron James

(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The physical nature of Duke basketball freshman Zion Williamson’s game is reminiscent of NBA star LeBron James.

There’s LeBron, and there’s Zion. Two physical specimens. As convoluted as it is to compare, Duke basketball forward Zion Williamson’s physicality emulates LeBron James.

It’s true. Most college basketball fans have seen it firsthand. Even myself. They both weigh over 260 pounds of solid muscle. The only difference is LeBron stands 6-foot-8, and Zion is 6-foot-7. Does one inch really make a difference?

You’ve probably heard the comments from people, “He’s the next LeBron.” That can be debatable. Not to misconstrue the physical comparison, but Zion’s size, strength, and body frame already give the truth behind the comparison.

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It started back in his high school days when Zion was a YouTube sensation. Millions of views, from millions of fans. Everyone across the nation knew about him. He was always known for the flashy dunks that wowed high school crowds.

After dominating the high school ranks, it continued when he arrived in Durham. Remember the first game of the season? Duke dismantled Kentucky, 118-84, in the 2018 State Farm Champions Classic. That was the first game of Williamson’s college hoops career. He had 28 points while dominating the Wildcats in transition, around the perimeter, and underneath the rim.

That game pretty much told the narrative. A narrative college basketball hasn’t seen.

If you’re an old-timer, think back to Shaquille O’Neal’s monstrous seasons at LSU in the ’90s. O’Neal was a man among boys. He couldn’t even be contained at 7-foot-1. It gives you a clue of what it means to use physicality to your advantage — something Zion has done in every game as a freshman.

Williamson’s physicality is unteachable. You can’t teach physicality, especially at the NBA level. LeBron uses a simple formula, and that’s to brutalize opponents with strength, power, agility, and speed.

Zion has completely embellished those characteristics. But he’s embellished them in a fashion that makes it almost impossible to scout. For instance, if you’re a coach scouting Duke’s offense, how would you contain a kid that’s 6-foot-7, 285 pounds and moves like an 8-year-old playing hide-and-seek with his friends at a playground? Tough question right?

But even during the scouting process, what defensive scheme would you use? In terms of guarding him one on one, do you play help-side defense? Do you double team? What would you do? It’s a daunting task for most college basketball coaches this year.

But here’s the breakdown. We know it’s difficult to scout a kid his size. You can’t be unapologetic about this. You have to be realistic. It would literally take three defenders to stop him. No argument. With a quick first step off the dribble, you blink one eyelid, and he’s at the rim for a one-handed dunk.

There’s no way you could run a man-to-man defense against Duke. Are you kidding me?  If you don’t believe me, go back and watch a few previous highlights. Zion’s first step reminds you of the way LeBron gets to the basket.

In the NBA, it’s a lot different. Players are much more massive and quicker. But Williamson has NBA skills right now. Would you agree? If the NBA didn’t implement the age rule for high school players, Zion would’ve come right out of high school. No argument in that.

Zion is projected by some to go No.1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Most mock drafts have him at the top of his class behind teammate R.J. Barrett. If the projection is sufficient, we’ll see more above-the-rim action at the next level. Williamson already has an NBA body, and he’s only 18 years old. That’s the most astounding fact about this kid.

Zion’s body frame has galvanized fans across the country — including myself. This kid is special. With over 2.1 million followers on Instagram, Zion is a celebrity in NCAA basketball. An immense social media following has made him a national phenomenon.

His physicality is comparable to LeBron James. There’s no doubt about it. Would you agree? A phenomenal talent with NBA skills and size. One of the most talented basketball players I’ve ever had the chance to watch.

Zion is on the brink to become a tremendous pro at the NBA level. A special talent with an amazing gift. The more I watch this kid, the more exultant I become.

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Fans, you’re looking at the NBA’s next big star: Zion Williamson.