Zion Williamson
DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 14: Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) goes for the dunk during the 1st half of the Duke Blue Devils game versus the Eastern Michigan Eagles on November 14, 2018, at Cameron Indoor Stadium (Photo by Jaylynn Nash/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In this age of social media, overexposure, and excess hype, it can be hard to know when something is the real deal. There are YouTube highlight videos for 15 and 16-year-old kids building up hype on what they could be. Often the real thing fails to live up to those expectations. For Zion Williamson, the hype has been at unheard of levels since he was a high school sophomore. Somehow he has not only managed to stay humble and focused on becoming a better basketball player, but he has managed to live up to the hype thus far. Zion has been must-see TV through his first 14 games at Duke. Known mostly as a dunker due to his ridiculous collection of highlights on the internet, he is working to prove he can do so much more.

Zion Williamson; Living Up to the Hype

Dunker Extraordinaire

It wouldn’t take long to be amazed by simply browsing through the multitude of highlight videos featuring Zion Williamson. His remarkable combination of size and explosiveness is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. At 6’7” 275 pounds, his size alone makes him difficult to deal with. When you factor in his lateral quickness, nimble footwork, and explosiveness he is almost impossible to contain. He attacks the rim with so much power, not many will attempt to challenge him. Zion also has a 46-inch vertical leap. Even if someone does decide to challenge him at the rim, it’s unlikely they’ll do anything except end up on the wrong end of a Sportscenter Top 10 highlight.

Zion Williamson burst onto the college basketball stage with a dunk-filled performance against Kentucky in the season opener. He has amassed a catalog of dunks whether it be catching lobs or off the drop step in the paint. Trying to contain him in the half-court is difficult. If he gets the ball on the fast break, it becomes a lost cause for the defense. Last weekend in the ACC opener against Clemson; he stole the ball at half court, took two dribbles and unleashed a 360 dunk. The slam itself was impressive, but even more so was the fact that he made it look effortless. Zion has 30 dunks already this season, more than Duke has allowed to its opponents all year. He is a highlight waiting to happen. The fabulous freshman is also starting to prove he is more than just a dunker.

Not a One Trick Pony

Along with all the hype, the Phenom form Spartanburg, SC has also been met with plenty of skepticism. The drawback of having your high school highlights everywhere on the internet is that people will look for flaws to bring the hype crashing down. His detractors were soon to claim that he was just a dunker. Some say that he was all superior size and athleticism, but was not this basketball savant. He has been working against this notion even dating back to his dominant high school career.

Now, as part of a star-studded freshman class for one of the nation’s premier basketball programs, Zion Williamson is getting to show his full game. He has impressed some of his doubters early this season with his feel for the game. The freshman has shown great awareness on both ends of the court, with passing ability and a defensive motor not often seen in biggest stars at the college level.

His internet hype may have had him billed as just a highlight reel dunker, but he is showing on a nightly basis to be much more than that. For the season, Zion Williamson is averaging 20.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per contest. He also fills the stat sheet on defense, with around two steals and two blocks nightly. If you think his dunks are highlight reel material, catch one of his help side blocks. It a toss-up as to what is more eye-catching. Is it the volleyball like force he spikes opponent’s shots out of the air, or the absurd heights he reaches in order to do so?

In the first true road game of his career, he dominated. Once again stuffing the entire stat sheet, with 30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and four steals. With the defense playing cautiously against him, he made them pay. Williamson went 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. The ability to shoot from the outside is the one constant when his detractors look for holes in his game. For the season he has hit seven of 25 three-point attempts. He is also an 80% free throw shooter.

Try To Compare

When a new phenom begins to emerge, people will try to compare him to players they’ve seen before. Due to his rare combination of size and athleticism, Zion Williamson is a hard match to find. There are a few names that come to mind though. Of course, LeBron James name comes up in comparisons. In part because of the large amount of hype at such a young age, and also the propensity to dazzle fans with highlight plays few other can make.

As far as actual playing style, there are two names from the 90s that come to mind. Former UNLV Rebel and number 1 NBA draft Larry Johnson had a similar combination of size, skill, and explosiveness. The balance of physicality and nimble footwork can be seen in both players. Former Wake Forest star Rodney Rogers is the other most frequent comparison. Both he and Zion are lefties with comparable playing styles. Rogers was a better shooter than Williamson currently is, but the Duke freshman’s passing ability is further along than the former Demon Deacon. Physically there are few players who can be compared to Zion. Maybe if you gave them the Captain America super serum to make them bigger, stronger, faster.

Title Search

The goal now is to compete for the ACC and National titles. Championships are always the standard at Duke. Zion Williamson is already projected as one of the top picks in this summer’s NBA Draft, along with Blue Devil teammates Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett. Despite their youth, the pressure will be on this collection of elite talent to win big and win often. The ACC is the country’s best basketball conference, so the competition will be stiff. Williamson is still trying to prove his doubters wrong, and show that he is worth the hype and expectations bestowed upon him. Challenging for a conference title with the likes of UNC, Virginia, and Florida State will help him to continue to develop his game and mature into the superstardom he is heading towards.

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