While the two play very different games on the court, there are similarities between them simply from the hype they’ve had to deal with early in their careers. James earned the “Chosen One” moniker early in his career, with cameras and reporters documenting his every move since high school.
It’s been similar for Williamson, who transformed into a national sensation during his time at Duke thanks to his high-flying dunks and powerful brand of play.
The two are separated by 16 years, with Zion being a 19-year-old rookie and LeBron a savvy 35-year-old veteran. While speaking with Omnisport Yahoo Sports, Williamson admitted that he’s been a fan of James and doesn’t always think he gets the “respect” he deserves as a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP.
“I used to watch him all the time, especially when he was in Cleveland the first time, he was just an incredible player to watch, he always held his own,” Williamson said. “Sometimes I feel he doesn’t get the respect he deserves but it’s not for me to decide.”
LeBron James: Zion Plays With ‘Infectious’ Energy
Since returning in late January from a knee injury, Williamson has helped turn things around in New Orleans. The Pelicans are 8-5 — including wins in five of their last six — and are in hot pursuit of a playoff spot, just 3.5 games back of the Grizzlies. Williamson is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in just 28.1 minutes per game.
If the Pelicans do wrangle the No. 8 seed, it could mean a matchup with the Lakers, who currently have a grip on the top spot in the Western Conference. This summer, James shared some thoughts on Zion on his HBO show The Shop.
“I’ve watched him a lot over the last year,” James said of Williamson. “Obviously I was with everybody (in regard to) him coming out of high school. I was like, ‘OK, all this competition that he’s playing against, these little short-a– white kids, he’s dunking on them, dunking over (them) every single time. Can he play? Can he play, like can he play ball?’
“And you know, the one thing that I noticed with his one year at Duke, that his energy was infectious, man,” James said. “Every possession it seemed like he could make a difference on the outcome of the game.”
A good example of that came in the Pelicans’ most recent win against the Warriors. Williamson missed a free throw, grabbed the rebound, missed again, stole the ball and managed to put it in for the bucket and a foul.
Zion Williamson Taking on Leadership Role With Pelicans
After trailing at half against the Warriors, a pump-up speech by Williamson helped get the Pelicans back on track, outscoring Golden State by 24 over the final two quarters.
“It was just one of those things where I just kinda said we gotta play with more energy,” Williamson told reporters after the game. “We are much better than this and we aren’t playing like ourselves, not moving the ball and just gotta be better. In a sense I was always kind of a blunt leader, let everybody go out there and do their thing but when it comes down to it, if I say something, that just seems something ain’t right.”
Williamson has throughly impressed his coach Alvin Gentry so far with both his demeanor and play.
“He isn’t your typical 19-year-old. He’s a very mature kid, very respectful of his teammates and they are very respectful to him as well. He is all about winning, just winning. He’s just a unique kid and the way he approaches the game. I tell ya, we don’t call a lot of plays for him. It’s all done within the flow of what we are doing and he’s figuring out the positions that he needs to be in to get him the ball and guys are finding him. We have to be a team that plays with flow.”
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