After missing the first 44 games of the season with a knee injury, Zion Williamson has been putting up blistering numbers for the New Orleans Pelicans. Through 19 games, he’s averaging 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting a blistering 58.9% from the floor. Those numbers place him among the all-time rookie elite.
Simply put, Williamson has generated more buzz and excitement than virtually any player since LeBron James. Yet for all of that media attention on Williamson, few people know much about his background. Here we take a closer look at Williamson’s family, while revealing some interesting facts about his parents and little brother, as well as the story behind Williamson’s name.
Zion Williamson’s parents and their athletic background
Williamson’s parents are Sharonda Sampson and Lateef Williamson. They divorced when Williamson was just five, and his mother remarried Lee Anderson. All three of the parental figures who figured in Williamson’s childhood had athletic backgrounds. His mother ran track at Livingstone College, where she was a sprinter.
Williamson’s father, meanwhile, played football as a defensive lineman at both the high school and college levels. Like Williamson’s mother, he also attended Livingstone College. Meanwhile, Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, played basketball while attending college at Clemson.
Anderson proved an important early influence on Williamson. In particular, Anderson worked with Williamson to improve his ball-handling and point guard skills. In an interview with USA Today, Anderson said of Williamson that, “He was trained from day one to be a guard, that’s why he’s so versatile now.”
Williamson’s mother also played a huge role in his development as a basketball player. In fact, Anderson coached Williamson until he was 14 years old, both on his AAU teams and as a middle schooler at Johnakin Middle School in Marion, South Carolina. She clearly proved an excellent coach, as the Johnakin team only lost three games over the span of two years.
The story behind the name
Williamson’s first name, Zion, has an iconic quality that makes it seem custom-tailored for basketball fame. Yet the name actually has a far more humble origin: the bible. Williamson’s mother chose the name. While she was pregnant, her grandmother had told her to look for a name that was “extra special.”
Sampson found herself flipping through the Bible one day in search of inspiration, when the words Mount Zion seemed to jump out at her. Mount Zion refers to one of the biggest mountains in the city of Jerusalem, as well as one of the most important locations in both the Old and New Testaments. Given Williamson’s mountain-like size, the name now seems especially apt.
Zion Williamson has a little brother
If you watched Williamson’s tearful interview after being selected with the number one pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, you may have noticed a young boy standing beside him. Many fans mistakenly assumed that the boy was Williamson’s son. In fact, it was his step-brother Noah, who was just five years old at the time — 13 years younger than Williamson.
Williamson, by all accounts, is a loving and attentive older brother. In a Ball Is Life documentary released when Zion was still in high school, Zion said that “Noah is my little brother and I always look out for him.” Despite their age gap, the two brothers also “go outside on that little goal I have and play basketball with each other.”
Noah Williamson’s endearing presence at the draft wasn’t the first time he went viral. He also popped up in a 2017 video from an AAU showdown pitting Zion Williamson and LaMelo Ball against one another.
Yet Noah might have been the biggest highlight, after he was caught spending most of the game asleep in his father Lee Anderson’s arms. Of course, that didn’t stop Anderson from fulfilling his duties as coach of Williamson’s SC Supreme AAU team.