Zion Williamson is bound to become one of the most high-profile names in basketball. Perhaps he already is, considering his status as the number one overall pick. However, there is a lot more to why Zion might be a once-in-a-generation talent.
The first pick in the 2019 draft was no ordinary first pick. Zion had expectations that rivaled LeBron James. Nobody had seen a player like him prior to this, with the closest comparison being a hybrid of Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. That’s because he dominated and scored like Shaq did, while also carrying the rebounding prowess of Barkley.
His strength and athleticism are unparalleled, and that became apparent in a 2019 NCAA Basketball game against the University of North Carolina. Zion and his Duke Blue Devils were facing their biggest rival, and the stars came out that night.
Even former President Barack Obama was in attendance. But the highly anticipated college bout became a grim affair with an injury to the burgeoning superstar Zion.
Zion’s foot popped through his Nike shoes, leaving him injured. His only contribution in that game was the turnover he got after falling down post the shoe explosion.
The fall-out of the infamous shoe explosion
Without Zion, the Blue Devis fell to the Tar Heels, 88-72. That game had multiple players that became first-round picks in the 2019 Draft. Coby White, R.J. Barret, Cam Reddish, Cam Johnson, and Nassir Little were all on the floor to watch the consensus top pick from their draft go down with an injury.
Zion didn’t injure his ankle, but that fall caused a knee sprain. That single sprain led to Nike losing over a billion dollars because Zion was wearing one of their shoes. However, it ended well for Nike, as Williamson would later sign with their subsidiary, ‘Jordan Brand’.
Breaking: Zion Williamson signs multiyear deal with Jordan Brand (@brkicks) pic.twitter.com/xfp9VlKppS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2019
The injury also resulted in debates about the treatment of college athletes. If the injury had been more severe, Zion would have lost out on millions from his career. College athletes aren’t supposed to make even a dime off their image, or they can lose eligibility to play in the NCAA. While Duke was selling expensive tickets and signing sponsorships using Zion’s allure, Zion himself didn’t make any money (officially).
Zion did return to the college basketball court, despite people saying he should sit out and protect his future. Despite him being available, the Blue Devils lost in the ‘Elite Eight’ to Michigan State and saw their season end without a championship.
Zion Williamson and teammates R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish would declare for the Draft and not return for a second season.
Zion Williamson today
Zion ended up going to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Draft. The knee injury caused by the shoe explosion may have come back to haunt Zion. He missed most of his season with issues in his right knee, including a meniscus tear. His health has become a focal point of his career, with many feeling he won’t fulfill his potential due to his knee issues.
Zion’s body is considered too burly and athletic for his own knees to absorb the weight. He can out-jump almost anyone and is one of the most ferocious players on the court. If you don’t believe us, check this clip of Zion ripping the ball out of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s hands after a rebound.
Zion averaged 22.5 points with 6.3 rebounds. Fantastic numbers for a rookie, but Zion did it with just 24 games under his belt. He placed third in Rookie of the Year voting, getting the only first-place vote not given to winner Ja Morant.
Williamson may be haunted by the chances of his knee giving out, but from what we saw in the games he played this season, Zion is special. He looks like a grown man on the basketball court, but he is just 20 years old. He has a lot of time to work on himself. While he may have millions in the bank already, he is just scratching the surface of his potential.
And to think that all of this could have been lost because of a weak Nike shoe.