No beginner had been so eagerly awaited for his professional debut since LeBron James, with the success we've known since: the new phenomenon of American basketball Zion Williamson, 19, finally arrives in the NBA, where he is promised a bright future. If it can be spared from injury.
After only a year (very successful) in college, in the prestigious Duke University, "Zion" was chosen logically in June in first place of the draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, where he joined a young and revanchist team after the departure of his star Anthony Davis at the Los Angeles Lakers.
His big debut was expected Tuesday, for the resumption of the championship, by all basketball fans. But they will be delayed by a few weeks, the fault of a right knee injury.
The craze around the player is due to athletic abilities out of the ordinary, his gigantic arms and a weight / explosiveness combination probably unprecedented.
Zion jumps in every direction to dunker or counter despite his 129 kilos that make him the second heaviest player in the NBA. Yet, culminating at "only" 2.01 m, this beautiful baby is very far from being the greatest player in the league and could even be considered a little small as a strong forward.
Since last year, the best have dubbed. LeBron James praised his "insane" athletic abilities and acknowledged that the comparison between the two, in terms of precocity, was to be. "Athletes like that, we see one by generation," said new Brooklyn Nets winger Kevin Durant, adding that he has "never seen anyone like him".
Since his first dribbling in high school, observers have placed all their hopes in Zion. He has never doubted his abilities. In 2016, just 16, he wrote on Twitter that one day he would "shock the world". The message is proudly displayed at the top of his account on the social network.
It remains to be seen if his body will hold the infernal pace of the championship with its 82 regular season games in about 6 months, at an average of 3 per week.
- Healthy -
Charles Barkley, the former glory of the 90s - who was quite good at being overweight - recommended to the young prodigy, that some critics accuse to have a little too much fat, to lose a few pounds. "Otherwise it will be too much pressure on the knees," he warned.
This did not fail to happen a few days ago, against San Antonio, in preseason. As a result, the Pelicans put him to rest to take no chances and the youngster will miss the first weeks of competition.
If Zion stays healthy, his first goal will be to be voted "rookie of the year" at the end of this season, ahead of RJ Barrett (New York Knicks), Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) and other Darius Garland ( Cleveland Cavaliers).
Last season, in a less intense University Championship (NCAA), Zion easily turned to 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, statistics that earned him the title of best player.
Sign of the frenzy that surrounded him, former President Barack Obama "himself", known for being a big fan of basketball, had come to one of his matches to see the phenomenon with his eyes.
Lacking luck, Zion had injured his knee (already) after about 30 seconds of play when his shoe had exploded on a change of support. The image had made headlines in the United States.
Barely drafted, without having played a single minute in the NBA, Zion has multiplied this summer partnerships with companies fetched by its phenomenal marketing potential. The most prestigious of them: a contract with the famous brand Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike.
His pre-season performances (23.3 points averaging 71.4% shooting success and 6.5 rebounds in just 27 minutes) confirmed that the guy was ready for the world's highest level.
"It's exactly what is expected of him," explained Spurs coach Gregg Popovich last week after his San Antonio side lost to the Pelicans. "An incredible combination of speed and strength."
© 2019 AFP