the long-awaited debut of the long-awaited Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson - here on January 22 - is now an NBA player.
Zion Williamson – here on January 22 – is now an NBA player. DERICK E. HINGLE / "USA TODAY Sports"

The wait is over. And this year in New Orleans, carnival is a month early. Two days before France ignites for the NBA – on the occasion of the first match in the history of the North American Basketball League played in Paris on Friday -, its former colonial city was enthusiastic, Wednesday 22 January (in the night from Wednesday to Thursday, in France) for its new star. After missing half the regular season due to a knee injury, Zion Williamson finally made his NBA debut.

First choice in the Draft – this lottery allowing the weakest teams to integrate the best prospects -, the 19-year-old player has been followed by basketball fans since his high school years, at Spartanburg Day School, in South Carolina. The images of a spectacular giant, as if mounted on springs, dominating the competition of the head and shoulders, had intrigued the world of the orange ball. The day before the match, the player had quipped at the endless wait. "You saw me meditating at the edge of the field, it was really difficult. " When it came to meditation, Williamson had been caught by nose dive cameras during a game. "But that's it, I can finally play. "

And the Pelicans kid didn’t miss his first steps. After a start without leaving the crowd, during the match hung against the San Antonio Spurs, "Zion" caught fire in the last quarter. A three-point basket, the conclusion to the circle of a collective action, followed by three other banners … In three minutes, and while his coach wanted to replace him to relieve his knees, the player scored 17 points in a row, handing over his team leading the brand.

In New Orleans, orphans of their star Anthony Davis, who left to join LeBron James at the Los Angeles Lakers this summer after a showdown with the Louisiana franchise, fans had welcomed the first choice of the Draft with joy. And awaited its beginnings like others the return of the Messiah. At the end of the match, while the Pelicans were fighting not to be left behind by the Spurs, the first "We want Zion! " (“We want Zion!”) ​​Are fallen from the stands. Probably not the last, but not enough to convince coach Alvin Gentry to deviate from his plan to limit his foal's playing time.

His physique is astonishing, astonishing and worried

Most expecting player – and therefore most scrutinized – since probably LeBron James, Zion Williamson was put under the hood by the Pelicans, worried about preserving the one who embodies the future of the franchise, even the League, if his performance follows. And they waited three months to give him the green light, while his torn meniscus in his right knee recovered. Leaves to frustrate the young man. "I have often wanted to knock on a wall, or burst a chairsaid "Zion". Not being able to move your body the way you want, not being able to do sports is hard. Especially since I'm only 19, and haven't played a single game yet. "

Become famous for its spectacular dunks since high school, because of his athleticism, Zion Williamson has been compared to the best basketball has produced in the last thirty years, from pivotal Shaquille O'Neal due to his dominance at strong winger Charles Barkley via LeBron James. But the main stakeholder insisted on rejecting these comparisons. "I'm just trying to be myself. I'm not trying to be next to anyone. I want to be the first and the last Zion. "

And this “Air Zion” is at least atypical. Not large – 1.98 m, any size in the land of giants – explosive – more than a meter of dry trigger – the native of Salisbury, North Carolina, also has a mass rarely seen at this level. With 130 kg displayed on the scale, his physique is surprising, astonishes and worries certain observers, who fear for his knees, subjected to an enormous load, as the player seems to be mounted on springs. A fear confirmed by his injury in the preseason, a few months after having – literally – exploded his shoe in match.

Read also Should we pay American university basketball players? Zion Williamson revives the controversy

"I will shock the world"

Anxious to preserve their assets, the Pelicans took advantage of the convalescence of the overpowered rookie ("Beginner") to correct some faults. In particular to spare his knees as much as possible during his repeated jumps, by working his flexibility on the receptions. "The idea is not to land with your legs straight, not to press my full force on it. It's very technical ", revealed the player. Who has been training again with his teammates for some time, and recently reassured the public about his aerial capabilities.

Far from being just a dunking machine, Zion Williamson confirmed last year, at the prestigious Duke University in North Carolina, the hopes placed in him since his birth in high school. Capable of crushing everything in its path, the thick winger is also distinguished by his finesse, speed and vision of the game, allowing him to find distinguished teammates. A potentially lethal combination that the NBA was waiting to discover on its big stage. Author of four three-point shots (for as many attempted) for his debut, the player has also demonstrated his ability to shoot from afar, an important weapon in the modern NBA. "We see that the kid worked", enthusiastic his partner Jrue Holiday after the meeting.

If he didn't walk on the Moon, the first steps of "Zion" (22 points and 7 rebounds, in eighteen minutes) are synonymous with hope for the Pelicans, authors of a dull start to the season. But who would see themselves playing the bristles from now on, despite the final defeat against the Spurs (117-121). "What you saw is a taste of what it can do when it's installed", stressed his coach after the meeting. He has said it for four years, when at not yet 16 years old, he had pinned it on his Twitter account. "I'm going to shock the world, believe me! " The tweet is still there. And now Zion Williamson is an NBA player.


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