Zion Williamson is only a handful of games into his professional basketball career, but the rookie is already living up to the hype. While it took the New Orleans Pelicans forward some extra time to get back to full health, he’s been well worth the wait. Zion has turned his team into appointment viewing; he’s dominating the paint, scoring with ease, and even earning praise from the likes of Michael Jordan.
On Tuesday night, Zion Williamson didn’t earn any new compliments from His Airness. The rookie, however, did join Jordan and some other NBA greats in the league’s record book.
Zion Williamson was well worth the wait
During his time at Duke, Zion Williamson proved that he had everything necessary to be a star. His NBA arrival, however, took a little bit of time.
Williamson, of course, had knee surgery on the eve of the regular season. While the Pelicans initially announced that their star player would be back in six to eight weeks, things didn’t go according to plan. Zion’s rehab stretched on and on. Rumors started swirling about his fitness and long-term prospects; some even wondered if Williamson should call it a year and come back fresh for the 2020-21 campaign.
After months of waiting, Williamson made his NBA debut at the end of January. While there have been a few minor bumps along the way—no one was happy with Zion’s limited minutes, and head coach Alvin Gentry publically implored his team to feed their star player in the post—the rookie has lived up to the hype. With nine NBA games under his belt, he’s averaging 21 points and 7.7 rebounds per night; those stats are already putting him in rarified air.
Joining the likes of Michael Jordan in the NBA record book
While Zion Williamson’s counting numbers are already impressive, they’re truly historic. The rookie is scoring at a nearly unprecedented rate, putting him in the same bracket as guys like Michael Jordan.
On Tuesday night, Zion became the first player in NBA history to record seven 20-point outings in the first nine games of his professional career. Only two other men—Grant Hill and Shaquille O’Neal—have come close, dropping 20 points seven times in their first 10 professional games.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Williamson is also the first player since the early 1990s to drop 14 points in each of his first nine NBA appearances. The three most recent players to accomplish the feat were Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing, and Michael Jordan; 15 of the last 19 players to reach that plateau eventually made it to the Hall of Fame.
Zion Williamson even surprises himself
Professional athletes have to be supremely confident in their own abilities. Zion Williamson, however, wasn’t expecting to be performing this well already.
“I expect to make an impact, but I don’t expect to do nothing like this,” the rookie explained after dropping 31 on Tuesday night. “Just kinda look to come in, kinda fit, not try to mess up. My teammates and coaches are always pushing me, like be outside the box.”
While it’s always important to pay attention to sample size, it seems like a safe bet that Zion Williamson is going to be an NBA star. If he’s playing this well while trying not to mess up, it will be scary to see what he can do as an experienced pro.