New Orleans Pelicans No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has been a YouTube sensation since his high school days at Spartanburg Day School in Spartanburg, S.C. Now the 19-year-old Duke product is taking his unique blend of eye-popping size and highlight-reel skills to the NBA. Already one of the internet’s favorite dunkers, Williamson showed off a complete game during his one season playing for Coach K at Duke. Here are a few fast facts to know about the most exciting player in college basketball:
1. Weighs in at 6’7” and 285 pounds
Named after Mount Zion in Jerusalem, Williamson is certainly a mountain of a man. Listed at 6’7” and 285 pounds, Zion would be the second-heaviest player in the NBA — behind only 7’3”, 290-pound free agent center Boban Marjanovic. But let’s just say Zion is a little lighter on his feet than the great Boban.
2. Can dunk from the free-throw line
Dr. J, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Brent Barry have all won dunk contests by taking off from (or at least near) the free-throw line. Zion showed off his ability to take flight at 285 pounds this summer, making a foul-line dunk look as easy as a free throw itself.
3. Highest max vertical leap in Duke history
Duke wasn’t ready for Zion’s max vertical leap testing. The legendary leaper jumped too high to have his number recorded. He outjumped a vertical leap test… at Duke. After adjusting the bar’s height by adding weights under its base, Zion eventually topped out at a Duke record 40-inch max vertical leap. But who knows what he would’ve posted had the Blue Devils been properly prepared for Zion’s first jump.
4. So famous in high school that Drake wore his jersey
“It’s amazing that Drake even knows my name,” Zion said. “When your favorite rapper wears your jersey, it’s an indescribable feeling.” Drake has been known to wear the high school jerseys of NBA players (and even give NBA coaches should massages), but it says something about a player's status when his jersey is considered cool by tastemakers when he's still in HIGH SCHOOL.
5. Was on SLAM magazine cover at 16 years old
SLAM magazine famously asked "Are you ready for Zion Williamson?" on the cover of its June 2017 issue. The high-profile photo shoot and national feature story were the first of many for Zion, whose meteoric rise has only just begun.
6. Has been compared to LeBron James
If it's not fair to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan, then it's really unfair comparing Zion to LeBron. But that hasn't stopped rabid fans from mentioning Zion's name in the same breath as LeBron. Other Williamson comparisons include Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson and Draymond Green. But really, Zion is one of a kind. As Pelicans GM David Griffin said after the draft "(Zion is) touched by the hand of God to play this game. He is a population of one."
7. Offered football scholarship by LSU
According to former LSU tight ends coach and current Texas State offensive line coach Eric Mateos, LSU offered Williamson a football scholarship in 2016 under then-interim coach Ed Orgeron. “I thought, hell, why not? He’s probably the best damn tight end to ever live,” Mateos told ESPN. “Coach O said go recruit the best athletes in the country and that’s what I tried to do.”
8. Comes from an athletic family
Zion was born in Salisbury, N.C., as the son of Lateef Williamson and Sharonda Sampson. Zion's father was a defensive line commit to NC State before attending Livingstone College, where he met Zion's mother, a track star at the school. After Zion's parents divorced, his mother married former Clemson basketball player Lee Anderson, who was instrumental in developing Zion's skills on the court.
9. Has unusual history with Anthony Davis
Zion replacing Anthony Davis as the face of the franchise in New Orleans. Although AD was recently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a deal that brought Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to NOLA, Davis' impact on Williamson goes beyond the court. Davis (who is seven years older than Zion) refused to sign an autograph for a young Williamson, who never forgot. "I try to sign every kids autograph," Zion says. "I don't want to turn a little kid down because I know it will hurt them because it hurt me. Anthony Davis, John Wall turned me down. So I try to sign everybody's."
10. Welcomed to New Orleans by Drew Brees
Zion may have been denied an autograph request by NOLA's outgoing star, but the Big Easy's reigning king of the city, Saints Super Bowl MVP QB Drew Brees, hooked up Williamson with an unsolicited autographed jersey. "Zion, welcome to the family. Let's dance," said Brees in a note left for Williamson alongside the signed No. 9 jersey. "Let's dance" has become Zion's catch phrase after an off-the-cuff comment he directed towards Pelicans fans on draft night.