Zion Williamson has wasted no time showing why he’s such an exciting prospect. He is still a rookie, however, and Pelicans veterans still give him the task of bringing the team some specific fast food on their flights. Hazing is a controversial tactic, but arrangements like this seem like just good fun.
Zion Williamson is already a star
So far, Zion Williamson has managed to look every bit like the future face of the NBA. After recovering from knee surgery before the regular season, it would’ve been understandable if he needed time to adjust to the pros. But Williamson’s performances are so good that it’s impossible for anyone to lower their expectations.
In just eight games, he’s averaging 20 points on 57% shooting and grabbing eight rebounds per game. Williamson puts up those numbers in a mere 26 minutes. With the future star back on the court, there’s renewed hope in New Orleans that they can make the playoffs despite their struggles.
What does a rookie’s road trip look like?
As talented as Williamson is, the rookie is still subject to the tasks young players must accept in the name of team bonding. He discussed one tradition during an interview on the JJ Redick Podcast.
The Pelicans veterans don’t ask for much from Williamson or the other four rookies. But they do have one request: A bountiful supply of Chick-Fil-A must be brought on to the team plane before every flight out of New Orleans.
If the food isn’t on the plane before takeoff, then each rookie is fined some amount of their per diem for road trips, according to Redick. It’s not the hardest task. Like most services in 2020, you can order the food via an app. It’s one of many things Williamson must do to prepare for away games.
Because of his unique physicality, Williamson’s daily schedule looks a lot different than his teammates. He goes into the facility an hour before practice to stretch. After practice, he works with coaches in a player development program. Watching film takes up most of this time, but he’s able to work on his skills during walkthroughs on the court.
Being a star of his size, Williamson’s Pelicans are heavily invested in his future, sometimes too much. In the above video, Williamson discusses having to skip out on dinner when the training staff tells him they want him to come in for something. Let’s hope he’s allowed to eat some of that Chick-Fil-A.
Hazing has its limits, but the Pelicans haven’t overstepped
Williamson’s catering requirements are an example of rookie traditions done right. There are plenty of other cases, especially in the NBA. Emptying a giant bag popcorn in a rookie’s car is a timeless tradition as showed above.
But there are also a number of instances where hazing stops being about team bonding and becomes an abuse of power. The most famous case of hazing in pro sports was when Miami Dolphins lineman Jonathan Martin left the team after being racially abused and bullied by fellow lineman Richie Incognito, then a member of the team’s leadership council.
No one could ever accuse the Pelicans of abusing Williamson through their Chick-Fil-A requirement. It’s easy to accomplish, and the punishment for forgetting the meal is not severe. Everyone’s having fun. As long as Williamson brings the sandwiches with the same ferocity that he brings to basketball games, then the Pelicans are in a good place.
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