Duke basketball legend closing in on Shaquille O’Neal record

Duke basketball great Zion Williamson (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball great Zion Williamson (Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports) /

Fittingly, one coach has likened a Duke basketball great to Shaq on wheels.

Back on Friday night, former Duke basketball one-and-done Zion Williamson scored 38 points against the Dallas Mavericks in a 112-103 home win by his New Orleans Pelicans. The 2021 All-Star reached that total — one point shy of the career-high from his previous appearance — via a 13-for-20 clip from the field plus a 12-for-18 mark from the foul line.

Afterward, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tried to put into words what he witnessed from the 6-foot-7, 285-pound game-changing forward, a problem that most of the Pelicans’ opponents have encountered this season:

“[Zion Williamson] presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O’Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set.”

A timely comparison for the record-flirting Duke basketball product

Two days after exhausting the Dallas Mavericks, Zion Williamson dropped 28 points, making 11 of his 22 field goal attempts, in a 115-109 road victory over the Boston Celtics.

By doing so, the 20-year-old notched his 24th consecutive 20-plus scoring performance, thereby extending this all-time record for NBA players under the age of 21; former under-21 sensations LeBron James and Luka Doncic are tied for second on this list with their mere 20-game stretches.

Now, in just his second year as a pro after going No. 1 overall at the 2019 NBA Draft, Williamson is averaging 26.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 62.4 percent from the field for the Pelicans (21-25).

But according to a recent tweet from the ESPN Stats & Info account, the latest efficient show also moved Williamson within one game of tying a shot-clock-era record that Shaquille O’Neal has held since 2001.

What record? In his prime at the time with the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal once scored 20-plus points 25 times in a row while each time shooting 50 percent or better from the field.

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The freak-of-nature NBA Blue Devil will see his chance to tie O’Neal when the New Orleans Pelicans — including co-star and fellow Duke basketball alum Brandon Ingram — host the Orlando Magic (16-31) at 8 p.m. ET Thursday.