Duke basketball: Zion Williamson’s mark trails only Michael Jordan

Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball product Zion Williamson’s first 40 NBA games were historic.

On Friday night, Duke basketball legend Zion Williamson played his 40th game since going No. 1 overall at the NBA Draft in 2019, following an epic season as a 6-foot-6, 285-pound freshman forward in Durham.

Not only did Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans (7-10) pick up their second straight win by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks (11-7) at home, 131-126, but the second-year pro also moved into a tie for second place since the 1976-77 NBA-ABA merger with his 31st total of 20 or more points across his first 40 appearances.

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The tie is with Hall of Famer David Robinson; in their first 40 contests, he and Williamson each notched two more 20-plus scoring performances than Shaquille O’Neal, who sits fourth on this list. First place, of course, still belongs to former UNC and Chicago Bulls guard sensation Michael Jordan with 34.

In fairness to the 20-year-old Williamson, though, Jordan was a month away from his 22nd birthday by the time he laced ’em up for the 40th time in the league. Also, Robinson was 24, and O’Neal was 20 but a few months older than Williamson is right now.

A duo of Duke basketball one-and-dones pitching in with the team effort

In 34 minutes versus the Bucks, Zion Williamson tallied 21 points, going 7-for-13 from the field and 7-for-10 from the charity stripe, to go along with eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists. He’s now averaging 23.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for the season while shooting 58.7 percent from the field and 67.5 percent from the foul line.

But Williamson wasn’t the only major weapon on his squad. No, per a tweet from the franchise, the Pelicans’ starting five became the first since the Detroit Pistons in 1992 with four guys scoring 20-plus points and the other starter grabbing 20-plus boards (this latter mark belonged to New Orleans center Steven Adams on Friday and Detroit forward Dennis Rodman 29 years ago).

One of the 20-plus scorers was another Duke basketball great, Brandon Ingram. The No. 2 overall draft pick from 2016, a 2020 All-Star, poured in 28 points, shooting 7-for-15 from the field, including 3-for-8 from beyond the arc, and 11-for-13 from the foul line. The 6-foot-8 forward also dished four dimes and is now averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old guard JJ Redick, who is the third Blue Devil alum in the Bayou, did not see any action against Milwaukee as his name continues to pop up in trade rumors.

The Pelicans are set to play their third game of a five-game home stretch when they host the Houston Rockets (8-9) at 8 p.m. EST Saturday.

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