by Alex Poletti
Photo by The Athletic
After scoring a career-high 31 points in a 138-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazer, Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson admitted to reporters that he did not expect to be living up to the hype of being the first overall draft pick in 2019.
“I knew that I’d make an impact, but I didn’t realize it would be like this,” the Duke product tells The Second String. “I was expecting more of a Greg Ogden start to my first overall story, but this works, too.”
From his first game in the pros, Zion has been proving himself. Against the Spurs in his debut, he scored 22 in 18 minutes, including a 17-point drive in the fourth quarter. This season, the 19-year-old has averaged 22 and 8 over his first nine games.
“I guess I didn’t realize I was this good,” Zion admits. “You’d think that my crazy dunks from high school, signing at Duke or getting drafted with the no. 1 pick would tip me off, but I honestly had no clue. This nine-game stretch has been just as unexpected for me as it has been for you.”
Surely, there have been a number of no. 1 picks to go bust over the years: Anthony Bennett was selected by the Cavaliers over Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013, and Michael Jordan’s Washington Wizards took Kwame Brown in 2001. After spending most of the season on the bench with an injury, some expected Williamson to join that bunch.
“Because I was out so long, I had some time to follow up with the other rookies this year,” Williamson says. “Obviously, Ja [Morant] is tearing it up for Memphis right now. I was just hoping to have some Cam Reddish numbers, ya know?”
In an era where the Kyrie Irvings of the world get center stage and Kevin Durant is backed up by 27 burner accounts on Twitter, it’s refreshing to see a player with this much humility grace the league’s presence. However, one has to wonder if he just hasn’t connected all the dots when it comes to basketball.
“I’m really baffled by it,” Williamson continues. “Who knew if you put a 6’8 athletic freak on a shitty team, they’d get better? Like, did everyone else know that when you add good players to a roster, it affects how they play? There’s some really high-level strategy going on in the NBA that I didn’t even know about.”