Memphis Grizzlies Rookie Ziaire Williams Was Floored by Going From Playing Alongside Bronny James to Facing LeBron

There’s never been a father-son combination playing in the NBA at the same time. But the first time the Memphis Grizzlies face the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021–22, we’ll inch closer to that when LeBron James is on the court with rookie Ziaire Williams. Williams played his final season of high school basketball at Sierra Canyon School, where he was a teammate of Bronny James.

Yes, that would be LeBron James Jr. Zaire Wade, the son of former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, was also on that Sierra Canyon team. Williams, who played a single season at Stanford, was the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He was taken by the New Orleans Pelicans. But Memphis’ trade to get the selection is pending the start of the new league year. After a less-than-stellar season at Stanford, Williams faces some pressure to perform.

Ziaire Williams had good and bad moments for the Cardinal

Ziaire Williams, a Southern California native, was ranked as high as No. 4 in his recruiting class. But rather than go to one of the notable one-and-done factories around the nation, Williams opted to go to Stanford. The Cardinal were 20–12 in 2019–20 and bound for a postseason tournament of some sort. Then the pandemic scrapped all of that.

There were high points for Williams at Stanford. He posted just the second triple-double in program history. In a Jan. 7, 2021, game against Washington that moved off-campus due to COVID-19 concerns, Williams had 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists in a victory over Washington.

But he also missed almost a month while in COVID protocols and was not the same player when he returned. Over his last seven games, Williams averaged 7.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 22.7 minutes per game and shot 39.3% overall and was just 5-for-23 (21.7%) from deep. He had put up 12.5 points, 5.7 boards, and 2.8 dimes in 30.7 minutes a night in his first 13 games.

Stanford struggled to a 14–13 record and missed the postseason after losing its last five games. It was a tough transition from Williams’ senior season at Sierra Canyon with Bronny and ZWade.

Williams will go from playing with Bronny James to battling against James’ father

Ziaire Williams will go from playing with Bronny James to against LeBron James with just one season in between
Ziaire Williams (R) will go from playing with Bronny James (top L) to against LeBron James (bottom L) with just one season in between. Williams was drafted 10th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, but he will be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies when the league year begins. | Joe Robbins/Getty Images | Christian Petersen/Getty Images | Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire

LeBron James is not unusual for a sports dad. He recently created some buzz when he confronted an AAU announcer. The King got a police escort back to his seat after reacting to a comment by the announcer that Bronny James got a homecourt call.

That happened during “The Battle: Summer Showcase” in Akron, Ohio. Played at LeBron’s alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, the gym, shockingly, bears the name of the elder James.

During his introduction to the Memphis media, Williams answered a question about the prospect of playing against LeBron after playing with Bronny James. The youngster appeared to be considering the idea for the first time, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“Oh, man. That’s going to be a crazy night, for real. That really just hit me now; I’m really going to play LeBron. That’s crazy.”

Ziaire Williams

Another former teammate of Bronny’s, Brandon Boston, was also drafted by the Grizzlies. Taken in the second round, Boston played as a freshman at Kentucky before entering the NBA draft.

The earliest Bronny James can enter the NBA draft, barring a significant rule change, is 2024. If Bronny is to join his somewhat-famous father in the NBA, LeBron would have to play another three seasons and come back for his 22nd year in 2024–25. Vince Carter is the only player in NBA history to play 22 seasons.

Ziaire Williams and Bronny James won a regional championship together

In 2019-20, the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers were 30–4 and were regional champions. Ziaire Williams averaged 15.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game as a senior. Bronny James, a freshman, played in all 34 games, averaging 4.1 points per game. Bronny is a 6-foot-3 combo guard and missed the 2020–21 season after tearing his meniscus in February.

Williams is rail-thin at 6-foot-8 and 185 pounds. He will need to build strength before he can take on a large load with the Grizzlies. Going 10th overall was a surprise; most mock drafts had Williams going outside the lottery in the first round.

As for Bronny, 24/7 Sports ranks him 30th in the 2023 graduating class. He projects as a combo guard while playing the point at Sierra Canyon and earns high marks for his shooting mechanics. James returned from his knee injury to play AAU in the summer of 2021.

After playing with Bronny James, Ziaire Williams will have the surreal experience of playing against one of the team dads from Sierra Canyon. But LeBron James is hardly your average team dad. After all, how many of them have four NBA titles and NBA MVP awards?

Statistics courtesy of the Los Angeles Daily News, 24/7 Sports, and MaxPreps.

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