The REAL Reason Why Zion Williamson Is SO Special In The NBA (Ft. Pelicans, Personality, Kinda Dunk)
Zion Williamson made his NBA debut, but what makes Zion so special?
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You wanna know how real the hype is. Zion was getting doubled before even making a basket. Yeah, Zion is different. I gotta give it up to Lonzo for calling Zion’s number over and over again and then denying Gentry’s timeout to give it to Zion again. He had 22 points, made 4 threes, and led the Pelicans comeback, all in his first game. There are tangibles like his vertical and intangibles like his feel for the game, so even if Zion didn’t have a good game, that wouldn’t change so I wanted to dive deeper into what makes Zion so special.
I didn’t expect to see much of Zion in his NBA debut but man was it exciting. I mean, ESPN had a camera on him the entire game on ESPN 3. Zion Williamson has hype that is only comparable to one other player, LeBron James. The Pelicans sold the most season tickets in over a decade for them at 12,000+. That also includes Anthony Davis’s rookie seasons. Look at this picture comparing AD’s debut versus’s Zion’s. That hype is tangible.
Keep in mind that Zion Williamson played in short 3-4 minute bursts at the beginning of every quarter. For a guy who has missed over 40 NBA games and hasn’t played a single NBA game, Zion was going to be rusty. He doesn’t have a place in the offense yet and if he’s only playing a short bursts, it’s hard to get a feel for the game and the one time he played more than 4 minutes in a row, he scored 17 points in 3 minutes.
There’s a certain energy around Zion that is rarified air. His fellow rookies all have nothing but praise for Zion, talking him up like he’s some legend before he’s even played a single NBA game. And then there’s the game on Wednesday. He makes a shot and then he was turned up. He had a look in his eyes, he was aggressive, it was a killer instinct, as if he knew that he had to put the team on his back to win, not just to make a mark. He told Gentry “Coach I can win the game for this team. Leave me in.” Even throughout the game, Zion knew that he wasn’t 100%, so he was whipping passes and taking what the defense gave. Like I’ve said before, Zion is an amazing passer, a guy with a feel for the game, making snappy passes that make him multidimensional.
Will Zion make all his threes he takes? No, and this was more of an abnormality, a pleasant surprise. He’s not a terrible shooter and he’s already made more threes than Ben Simmon’s entire career. We didn’t get to see why Zion’s so exciting, his athleticism. Yes it’s a unique combination of size with explosiveness and verticality that we haven’t seen before. At 285 pounds. Zion is the third heaviest player in the league and he looked the part, but to then be able to move at his speed which is why the Spurs doubled him without making a basket.
Apparently there was a story that Zion gained 8 pounds of muscle in a single week during the off-season after he started to lift weights. Jeff Van Gundy immediately called BS, but this isn’t that far from what actually happened in high school. Zion didn’t realize that he had gained 100 pounds because and I quote, he was running just as fast and jumping just as high if not a bit higher.
This is Zion at his normal because he wasn’t trying to gain. And he didn’t lose a step, any vertical, nothing despite gaining that weight. That’s something that defies nature in itself.
Again props to Lonzo for getting Zion involved because every single shot Zion took in that 3 minute stretch came after a Lonzo pass to Zion. (Yuh) He has charisma and is beloved by his teammates. He’s one of those people that a team rally behind. These are things you can’t teach, it won’t show up in the stats, it’s not quantifiable. And that’s what Zion really is.
We can try to put as many numbers on Zion, get wowed by the dunks, or see his size, but that’s not what truly makes Zion Williamson special. We have seen other athletes with insane upside that lack intangibles like an Andrew Wiggins who hasn’t been what we thought. If Zion was simply a high riser that was big, he wouldn’t be all that special, but it’s the intangibles in combination with his physical gifts that make Zion one in a million player. But what do you think? Can Zion win rookie of the year? What will he average?