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Zion Williamson hasn’t suffered from his perplexing Summer League fiasco that ended after one game in which thousands of people paid exorbitant ticket prices to see him play one out of shape half of ball before leaving with a knee bruise.
That moment was quite a let down for the most anticipated Summer League debut since LeBron James’ back in 2003. Fortunately, The Zion Effect is still real and everyone from former NBA Hall of Famers to his former coach at Duke was making excuses for the College Player of the Year.
ESPN is still hyping him as if he is the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal in Charles Barkley’s body and the League has every intention of giving fans a healthy TV dosage of the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2019 NBA Draft; who also happens to be one of the most celebrated,revenue-generating and hyped college players to ever enter the NBA.
Call it ironic that just as Giannis Antentokumpo replaces LeBron as the NBA’s No. 1 player according to Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 list, Zion makes his rankings debut as the 42nd-best player in ESPN’S #NBArank list.
Zion Williamson ranked no. 42 in ESPN's top 100 NBA players for next season.
Too high or too low? ? pic.twitter.com/R6vUWe1XEg
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) September 25, 2019
Not only is it the highest ever ranking for a first-year player, but Top 50 is ambitious considering the wealth of talent on NBA rosters. However, when you take into account the level of expectations that await Zion as soon as he takes the court for the New Orleans Pelicans in an NBA regular-season game, it’s safe to say that he might even have to be a Top 25 player this season to at least scratch the surface of the hype machine that supports his journey and guides his narrative.
It’s part of the Zion Effect. Expect a rookie season full of ups and downs. His huge nights are going to be lauded and flooded with supporting statistics that place Zion among the greatest rookies ever. His off nights are going to either be overly criticized or excused as aberrations and a lack of talent surrounding him.
At the end of the day, becoming one of the best players in history is the only thing Zion is chasing and he’s just a 19-year-old pup, who already acquired legendary fan adulation, flexed his potentially-billion dollar brand and ability to boost ratings while at Duke.
He already secured the bag that will enhance his family for generations when Jordan Brand hit him with a shoe deal worth seven years and $75 million
Everything left to prove and attain is really on the court. I don’t know if that allows him to go out and dedicate his game to his craft with no distractions. Or lessens his desire to become one of the all-time greats because the bag is already secured. That remains to be seen. Who knows what motivates each individual superstar?
There are those who feel that 42 is too high for a guy who never played an NBA game.
When Klay saw Zion Williamson ahead of him in the ESPN rankings pic.twitter.com/CcW2USLxx0
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) September 24, 2019
On the flip side, if I’m Zion Williamson and I’m the generational player from another planet that journalists and basketball minds pontificate about, being ranked 42nd — even before I play a game in the league — is not good enough.
I can’t wait to see how the anointed one responds.