Being touted a superstar before he even touched an NBA court, 19-year-old Zion Williamson carries huge expectations. Drafted as the number 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, Williamson is the most exciting prospect for a very long time.
Signing a rookie deal of $44.2 million over four years, he picked up a five-year $75 million shoe deal with Jordan before even playing a minute in the professional ranks. The deal is the second-largest shoe deal in history. Behind a rookie LeBron James’ $90 million deal.
But do you know his journey to NBA stardom? Let’s take you through it.
Zion Williamson was born in Salisbury, North Carolina on July 6, 2000. From a young age he had his sights set on becoming a professional basketball player. He featured for the Sumter Falcons youth team in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) league. His mother Sharonda Sampson coached the team.
Williamson also trained with his stepfather, Lee Anderson, who was a former college basketball player, to improve his skill-set. He has said publically that he would frequently wake up at 5.30am to workout with his stepfather.
After attending Johnakin Middle School in Marion, South Carolina, Williamson joined Spartanburg Day School, also in South Carolina. A small private school. Between eighth and ninth grade he grew from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-3. In his debut season with the Griffins, he averaged 24.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 3.3 steals, and 3 blocks. He also featured for the South Carolina Hornets AAU team, alongside Ja Morant.
By his second year in high school, he stood at 6-foot-6. He soon propelled into the national spotlight for his viral highlight dunk videos. Williamson received public praise from Stephen Curry in November 2016. In January 2017, Drake wore his jersey in an Instagram post.
A lot of publicity came in July 2017, as Williamson faced off against popular prospect LaMelo Ball. Brother of NBA player Lonzo Ball and son of LaVar Ball. They faced off in the Adidas Uprising Summer Championships in Las Vegas. The highly-anticipated contest took place in front of a sold-out crowd. Featuring NBA players Damian Lillard, Jamal Murray, Andrew Wiggins, Lonzo Ball, and Thon Maker. Williamson’s team came out on top, with a 104-92 victory.
Going into his junior season, Williamson was a consensus five-star recruit. Additionally, he was ranked as the number one player in the 2018 class. This was by 247 Sports.
In his final season, Williamson averaged 36.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Through his high-school career, he picked up numerous individual allocates, including South Carolina Mr. Basketball. He also was runner-up for Mr. Basketball USA. Williamson featured in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game. Additionally, he led Spartanburg Day School to 3 straight state championships.
Throughout his high-school years, Williamson was offered many college scholarships. Including from Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, and Duke. He was also reportedly offered a football scholarship from LSU but did not show interest.
He committed to Duke on January 20, 2018, in a live ESPN telecast. In his debut, he recorded 28 points in 23 minutes against the Kentucky Wildcats, in a 118-84 win. Williamson then dropped 35 points against Syracuse, which was a Duke freshman record for single-game points. Previously held by Marvin Bagley III and J.J. Redick. By late January 2019, he had nine 25-point games. Which set a new Duke freshman record.
Williamson famously suffered a knee injury in February 2019, in a game against North Carolina. 36 seconds into the contest. His foot tore through his shoe causing a slip. Nike was the manufacturer of the shoe and their stock reportedly plummeted by $1.1 billion the following day due to the incident. Williamson did not feature in Duke’s final six games of the regular season.
Upon the conclusion of the regular season, he earned the ACC Player of the Year Award. As well as the AAC Rookie of the Year Award and the Karl Malone Award. He was also named the ACC Athlete of the Year and made the ACC All-Defensive and All-Freshman teams.
Williamson returned to action in the ACC Tournament, picking up the championship after posting 21 points in a 73-63 win over Florida State.
Duke Exit, Declaring for the NBA:
Even though he played alongside college stars RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, Williamson and Duke did not win the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Instead, losing to Michigan State in the Elite 8. Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game in his freshman campaign.
He joined the freshman 500 points, 50 steals, and 50 blocks club as a result of the season. Only Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis have posted the same numbers. On April 15, 2019, Williamson declared for the 2019 NBA Draft.
After surprisingly winning the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, Willamson was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the first pick on June 20, 2019. He dazzled in his NBA Summer League debut, scoring 11 points in 9 minutes. With resale tickets commanding over $500. LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather were in attendance for the game.
However, he tore his meniscus during the preseason and wasn’t able to make his official NBA debut until January 22, 2020. Against the San Antonio Spurs. He certainly made his mark in his debut, scoring 22 points, and 7 rebounds. Including 17 consecutive points, in just 3 minutes, during the fourth quarter.
On March 1, Williamson broke the 30-point mark for the first time in his professional career, against the Los Angeles Lakers. He recorded a career-high 35 points, in a 122-114 loss.
At the time of the NBA’s Coronavirus suspension, Zion Williamson had featured in 19 games in the 2019/20 season. His averages; 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. On 58.9% shooting, 46.2% from 3.
Despite being weighty (129kg), he is described as a “once-in-a-generation type athlete”. He is listed as a Power Forward but can play as a small-ball 5 too. Being able to play multiple positions, he can defend multiple positions also, because of his size and speed. Additionally, he is a reliable ball-handler.
A well-rounded athlete. Maybe the perfect player? Zion Williamson has been taking the world by storm for many years now. It’s just now he’s doing it on the biggest stage of all.