by Alex Poletti
Photo by Chris Graythen /Getty Images
Critics of Zion Williamson got the last laugh on Wednesday when the 2019 first overall pick spontaneously burst into flames within the first minute of his NBA debut in New Orleans. Despite the unfortunate start, the Duke alum still managed to score 22 points, including 17 straight in the fourth quarter.
“A lot of people have been saying that Zion is too overhyped or that he isn’t in the right shape to be playing in the NBA,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry says. “Looks like, to a certain extent, they were right. We certainly weren’t expecting Zion to literally go up in flames, but these things can happen. If we knew that was a possibility, we would have taken things a bit more slowly.”
Williamson sat for the first part of the year with a knee injury, forcing New Orleans to shelf his debut until late January. While the team believed he was ready to go, they overlooked the possibility that he may unexplainably light on fire.
“It could be the pressure of the big game,” Jeff Van Gundy, an ESPN analyst who worked on the broadcast, postulates. “But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s his weight.”
Despite having no association with the team, the game or Zion in general, Warriors GM Bob Myers has already taken the blame for the incident and was seen crying during a press conference after the game.
While most people found out about the freak incident by checking Twitter or watching the game live, notorious Zion critic Enes Kanter found out in a more unusual manner.
“I wasn’t watching the telecast or anything, and all of a sudden I looked down and saw I had a massive erection,” Kanter says. “Then a few seconds later I got the call that Zion suffered a fiery explosion, and I knew exactly why it was happening.”
Luckily, the Pelicans were able to sweep up Williamson’s ashes and viscera and fix him up for the fourth quarter. He then went on a rampage, scoring 17 straight for his squad, almost leading his team to the victory.
“Zion is on fire right now!” play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch said. “Not literally this time, though.”
However, his electric run and four three-pointers weren’t enough to cement a Pelicans comeback against a Spurs team that had their number all game long. Coach Gentry may have hurt his team by taking Zion out right when they closed the lead.
“A lot of people think that I benched Zion at the end because we’re managing his load,” Gentry says. “But that’s not true. I just didn’t want Pelicans fans to actually have a good day. It takes a while to build from miserable to content, and we aren’t quite there yet.”