Even at the game’s highest level, Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson is a man amongst boys.
Zion Williamson is living up to the hype as he put up a career-high 31 points, along with nine rebounds and five assists, to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 138-117 win at home over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night. According to a SportsCenter tweet, despite playing only 28 minutes, he joined Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic as the only 19-year-olds to have reached all three of those totals in a game.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound rookie is now averaging 21.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in only 24.9 minutes per game. ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that “Zion Williamson is the third player with seven 20-point games in his first 10 career games over the last 30 seasons. He joins Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal. He is the only player in that span to record seven 20-point games in his first nine career games.”
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With Williamson now looking like his old self, the Pelicans look to make a push for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. They’ve won six of their last eight and currently sit at 23-31, five games back of a playoff spot, and will host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Williamson has been off the charts with his dunks since high school, but like Duke basketball’s Mike Krzyzewski, New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry saw a lot more in the Spartanburg, S.C., star than the way he rocks the rim. Most fans lost their minds as the No. 1 draft pick went 4-for-4 from 3-point land in his debut three weeks ago, but Cameron Crazies were far from shocked as they saw this man time and time again prove the doubters wrong at Duke.
One thing that is overlooked in Williamson’s game is his basketball IQ. Many times, we find him to be “at the right place at the right time,” but it’s no coincidence. The way he times his putbacks is truly a work of art. The ability to maneuver his body in the air and finish at the rim is what makes the former Blue Devil a force to be reckoned with.
Now that we have seen Williamson face NBA talent, fans and analysts everywhere are making bold assumptions and comparisons to current and former NBA players; but the reality is, Zion is an athlete unlike any other we have seen before in the game of basketball.
He may explode to the rim like Russell Westbrook. He may be built like LeBron James. But Zion Williamson is a different breed, and if he can stay healthy, he will be someone we look back on and be glad we got the privilege of watching play the game we all love.