I’ll be really honest with you; I don’t like Duke (Psst, don’t tell Joey!). I never have and never will. The Cameron Crazies, the stupid “We’re Smart! You’re Dumb!” and “Safety School” chants, favorable calls, dirty plays and dirty players, including Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick, Grayson Allen, Shane Battier, Greg Paulus, and several others. All of that, there is probably nothing I hate more in college basketball.
But I’ll tell you what…I am a BIG Zion Williamson fan. You should be too; even if you despise Duke as much as I do.
Unless you’re on the Boston Celtics, I am normally not a fan of the Duke players who are in the NBA.
But Zion Williamson is Different
Yes, I know he’s not in the NBA yet, but on April 15th, Williamson officially declared for the NBA draft. He will be the #1 overall pick, and if he’s not, someone somewhere will be losing their job.
What is interesting to me about his decision for the draft however, is his timing. Tre Jones decides to stay at Duke. Then Cam Reddish declared for the NBA draft, followed by R.J. Barrett deciding to go pro too. All this happened before Zion even made his decision. Why did he wait? What was the hold-up?
He Was Waiting for His Friends
When Duke lost to Michigan State in this year’s Elite 8 matchup, Zion could have walked into the locker room and immediately, within minutes of the loss, told the press that he was going to declare for the NBA. Some players, believe it or not, have done that before.
When UCLA’s Lonzo Ball got embarrassed by De’Aaron Fox and Kentucky in the 2017 Sweet 16, Ball wasted no time in telling the media that he was going pro. But Zion did no such thing. He waited. He was still hung up in his team’s tournament loss.
Three of Williamson’s teammates made their decisions before Zion. Now I could be wrong – I could be simply speculating here – but I genuinely believe that Zion waited to see what his teammates would do before he made his own decision, as if their decisions held weight in his contemplation to go pro. Zion was hesitant to leave Duke. This to me is a testament to who Zion is as a player, as a teammate, and as a human-being. Don’t get me wrong, HE’S A MACHINE, but then again, he’s not.
What if R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish decided to stay at Duke? Do you think Zion still would have declared for the draft? It was almost like Zion had to be convinced first before declaring for the draft. It’s possible he could have stayed. We’re talking about a kid who’s 6’7, 285 Ibs, who can jump through roof, run the floor, shoot softly, and practically play anywhere on the floor. LeBron, Jay-Z, and the freaking former POTUS Barack Obama all came to watch Zion. A YouTube sensation who was on the cover of magazines in high school, and he waits…and says “team first”.
Zion is not only a great player…he’s marketable
I don’t know about you, but if I’m an NBA scout, I am all about this. And even if he doesn’t pan out to be a great player, A). Barring injury, there is no way he will not at least be a halfway decent player, and B). The marketability alone is irresistible. Just say to yourself the name “Zion Williamson” or better yet, just “Zion”. How does that ring?
Knicks fandom would do a complete 180 if New York drafted Zion. Any team really would to be honest. He’ll fill your seats, he’s a great player, but he’s a team player. And while his timing of when he declared for the draft may not sound like a big deal to you and most others, I think it’s a HUGE deal for me, because it tells us a lot about who Zion is as a player and a person.
He Wanted to Win
Often times the greatest players are ones who are in the moment or play for the moment. They don’t harp on the past, and they don’t look too far forward. They are in the present and do what must be done at that moment in time to be successful – to win. It’s about the task at hand. Zion was always about Duke when he was at Duke. Zion, along with everyone else in the world, knew he would be in the NBA and be the #1 overall pick. The spotlight has always been on him, but he was always about winning at Duke. Zion didn’t go to Duke to lose in the Elite 8. He didn’t go to Duke to be in the NBA either. If it was all about that, he could have gone to any school in the country, it wouldn’t matter.
Zion chose Duke because he believed that was his best chance to win and win a National Championship. And when Zion suffered his knee injury and blew up his shoe against UNC, he very well could have declared, “Well that’s it, I’m going to rest and shut myself down, save myself for the draft…I’ll be the top pick anyway, NBA here I come!” When almost everyone begged him to stand down, Zion rose up, and came back for the NCAA tournament, because he cared and he wanted to be there for his team and win.
To me, waiting for Reddish and Barrett to declare for the draft, Zion is basically saying, “Alright, let’s do this, we go in together and succeed together.” How can you not love that? How can you fault the kid? He’s a winner and a team player.
Zion is different. He will become someone in the league we have not quite seen before. I cannot wait to see where he goes in the NBA. I just became a BIG Zion Williamson fan and so should you.