The Duke star suffered a knee injury last night against North Carolina, but where does he go from here?
Every athlete dreams of becoming stars in the NBA just like the players that they idolized when they were young. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James. Everyone wants to be the next great icon in the sports world.
Zion Williamson has a very real chance to be that next great player. Projected to be the number one overall pick in the NBA draft come this June (mocked to the New York Knicks currently), Williamson is an extremely rare physical specimen. At 6’7″ and just over 280 pounds, Zion does not have the typical build that you would see out of an 18 year old forward.
Not only does he have a large physique, but his skills on the court are just as incredible. With a player at this size, you would not expect to see such quickness and fluidity going up and down the court. However, with Williamson, we see a player with a natural feel for the game, and willingness to make the right play. Combine this with his raw power and athleticism, and you get an unstoppable force.
But even unstoppable forces have a kryptonite. In last night’s contest against the Tar Heels, Williamson made a hard move to evade UNC’s Luke Maye, and busted right through his Nike PG 2.5’s. Zion writhed in pain and immediately grabbed his left knee. He would later be evaluated in the locker room, but was ruled out for the rest of the contest against North Carolina.
So what does this mean for Zion’s career going forward? Many believe that he should shut down his season and focus on getting healthy for his NBA future, while others believe he should stick it out and pursue a National Championship with Duke. Williamson is faced with an extremely difficult decision: focusing on himself, or focusing on the good of the team.
There are perfectly logical reasons for either decision, however, whichever route he decides to go will have a large impact on his future as a basketball player.
Here are reasons to consider each of his options:
Playing out the rest of the season with Duke
No team has been more exciting than the Duke Blue Devils this season, and Zion has been the main reason for this. Zion has been a social media sensation ever since his dunk highlight reels were posted on Youtube, and this year he garnered national attention on the biggest stage.
However, Zion had a bit of help along the way.
When Tre Jones and Cam Reddish committed to Duke, they created a group chat with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Not just to recruit them, but to bond with them long before they even committed.
“We created a brotherhood”-RJ Barrett.
When deciding whether or not to play out the rest of the season, Zion should consider those words spoken by Barrett. If it is truly a brotherhood between the four Duke freshmen stars, Williamson would go until the very last buzzer in the tournament with those guys. It is much less about playing for yourself than it is about your individual success.
While Zion will certainly have a chance to win a title when he goes to the NBA, he only has this one chance to win a national championship with the Blue Devils. Not very many college basketball players get to experience this feeling, but these young guys have a very good chance at doing just that with their brothers at their side and making history.
Building upon the legacy that is Duke basketball and Coach Mike Krzyzewski has to be in Zion Williamson’s mind. Being one of the best players that Coach K ever had the chance to coach would be a truly special accomplishment, considering there have been many outstanding players to come through that program.
Zion may just have to give it his all, and give Duke fans a reason to hope for their 3rd championship in the last 10 years.
Sitting out the rest of the season and preparing for the NBA
This may be the smartest move for Zion in terms of his basketball career.
Time and time again we have seen players’ careers end due to injury, and Zion is the last person we want to see this happen due to his tremendous talent. His dream of reaching the NBA and reaching his maximum potential could be in jeopardy should he suit up for Duke again this season, and there is no guarantee should he aggravate his knee injury that he will return as the same player.
Williamson has already proved himself as the best player in the nation in his time with Duke, and NBA scouts know what they are getting with the versatile forward. Generational talent like him is called what it is for a reason: it does not come around often. General Managers in the league are absolutely drooling at the skill set that Zion brings to the table, and many teams need a player like him to build around (Knicks, Cavaliers, Suns).
So why would he risk being that coveted player? Why would he risk being the next NBA phenom and etching his name into the history books?
Having that dream of growing up and being like your idols is something athletes think about more often than not. Being a professional basketball player, making millions of dollars, owning your own brand of shoe, it is all something that kids pretend to be but rarely ever get a chance to be.
If Zion is selected 1st overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, he will make over $20 million in just his first three years in the league. To put this into perspective, Corey Brewer, a veteran small forward who was selected 7th overall in the 2007 NBA draft, did not make $20 million until his 7th season in the NBA, in which he was only earning 3.2 million dollars (according to spotrac.com).
If an injury falls upon Zion, it could dramatically effect not only the way he plays, but how much money he is able to make, should he end up falling in the draft.
There is a lot to consider for Zion’s future as a basketball player, and he should consider all of these things before deciding on what to do here in the present.
In the end, Williamson controls his own destiny and will make a decision that is best for himself. Whether he chooses to forgo the rest of his season at Duke and prepare for the NBA, or stay with his teammates and pursue a National Championship will depend on how severe the knee injury is. However, no matter what Zion does, he will always gain the attention of basketball fans around the world, because he is truly a player with rare talent.