Zion Williamson currently exists in a strange space of the zeitgeist where you’ve likely either already seen roughly 27,000 clips of him dunking on high school teams stocked with Ansel Elgort doppelgangers or you’re reading this and thinking, “Who is Zion Williamson?” Either you’re almost tired of talking about him or you have no clue who or what the fuck he is. Basically, he’s basketball kombucha.
For those in the latter camp, here’s a quick summary: Zion Williamson is an incoming freshman at Duke University. His explosive athleticism—captured in numerous viral highlight tapes—has drawn comparisons to LeBron James. This LeBron comparison, for the record, is inaccurate. Williamson isn’t as skilled and advanced as a basketball player as an 18-year-old LeBron already was. Also, Zion is somehow actually even more explosive.
This is going to veer into basketball wonk territory, but as insane as LeBron’s hops are, he’s primarily a one-foot leaper. He can bounce of off two fine enough, but he doesn’t get as much elevation there as he does when leaping off his left leg. Williamson, however, has what we used to refer to in Pittsburgh as “caveman hops” off of one and two.
Here’s him dunking from the foul line (off of one foot) during a practice a week ago.
Here’s him having to duck so he doesn’t bang his head off the backboard while blocking a shot (off of two feet) during an exhibition game Wednesday. And then, later in the game, tearing the rim down on a tip dunk (also off of two feet).
Of course, there have been (and currently are) other freak athletes who can do the things Williamson is doing. What makes him so unique is that he weighs (a reported) 285 pounds. He’s the size of an NFL defensive end, and he skies like Vince Carter. I’ve never seen anyone that size get up that high and neither have you.
Predictably, Williamson’s exploits have gained him a considerable fanbase already, as even NBA stars have gone gaga watching him play. And, just as predictably, in the comments sections of the videos and blogs featuring him, and in the Twitter threads about him, and in some of the barbershop convos discussing him, you’ll find comments like this:
Of course, there is footage of Zion Williamson shooting a basketball. His highlights have been on the internet since he was 15. Even in the mixtape link in the second paragraph, there are clips of him shooting and doing basketball things other than dunking and blocking shots. But questions like these aren’t sincere asks. They know that they can easily find a clip of him shooting a three, or making an outlet pass, or hitting a defender with a hesi and an inside-out cross, or setting a screen and rolling to the basket.
Instead, they’re just trying to distinguish themselves as the sober-minded and level-headed pragmatists—the brave souls unafraid to say The Things That ACTUALLY Matter—while everyone else is enthralled with Williamson’s dunks. “Yeah, that dunk from the three-point-line was OK, I guess. But wake me up when he takes a charge.” For context, this is like watching Beyoncé’s Lemonade and then tweeting “But can she play the ukulele tho? Can’t call her an artist til she does that.”
Anyway, fuck those people. If you are one of these people, I hate you, and I wish you a life of nothing but jeans that don’t fit quite right and going to the Popeyes takeout at 9:46 to get there before they close at 10 and learning that they STOPPED MAKING CHICKEN 10 MINUTES AGO BUT CAN MAYBE GIVE YOU SOME COLESLAW AND SPRITE.