Zion Williamson is finally playing in the NBA. While the hobbled big man still has a way to go before he’s officially healthy, the 19-year-old already shows glimpses of his dominance. Williamson has been on the basketball radar since he was in high school. He’s in the NBA at the perfect time, too, as the league needs a player like him. Here’s why.
LeBron James is getting older
Had Williamson been drafted out of high school, he may have been the most hyped player since LeBron James. Like James, the power forward was scouted and had greatness attributed to him at a young age. But the NBA’s insistence on players completing one year of college or international play before they’re eligible robbed the league of this possibility.
James still plays better than most players dream of, but he’s in his 17th season. Others, like Steph Curry and Giannis Antetokounmpo, show they can be international stars. But the NBA loves having a phenom christened for greatness from an early age. Williamson is its best chance of recreating James’ hype.
The young pro does not need to be as good as James. For the NBA to reap the full benefits, however, the league will want him to play the star he’s been labeled since he was barely old enough to drive.
NBA ratings are down
The league has suffered a ratings drop. While Williamson is just entering the league, he could already make an impact. The Pelicans have several nationally broadcast games, and even if the team struggles to win, people will tune in to see Williamson play no matter the situation.
The Warriors, who ruled the ratings during their finals run, are taking a year off. However, a season is a long time. When Golden State gets Curry and Thompson back, there are no guarantees they’ll be the same team. This is why a player like Williamson is important.
The Pelicans player will likely garner dozens of national games if he plays as well as people believe he can. In a league where fans may lose interest, this could be a vital cog in the NBA’s attempt to stay relevant.
There’s never been anyone like Zion Williamson
Above all else, Williamson is a purely unique player. He may be average NBA height at 6-foot-6, but he plays like he’s far bigger. His massive, 285-pound frame does not weigh him down as much as it makes him tough to guard. With Williamson going toward the basket, even taller players don’t know how to handle a player with his unique build.
Williamson’s build isn’t the most unique thing about him, but it does help every part of his game. He’s also freakishly athletic. The Greek player can throw it down with Shaquille O’Neal’s ferocity. He can also take the ball outside the three-point arc and drain it. On defense, he has the potential to block a shot and defend across the court, even if it takes some time to polish.
The NBA has every reason to want Williamson to become the player he’s promised to be. From the ratings and on-court product to the need for another NBA superstar, he checks every box. His growth in the NBA will be fascinating for everyone to follow.