Millions of kids across the country participate in high school athletics. Invariably, those high school athletes will compare themselves, or be compared, to the other players in their conference and state. Some will think they measure up pretty well. Others know they will not do more than earn their high school varsity letter. And then, every once in a while, a generational talent will show up and re-calibrate everything.
Zion Williamson, a rookie Power Forward on the New Orleans Pelicans, is two years removed from playing high school basketball in South Carolina. Every opponent during his high school career had his game marked – “The Zion Game” – and those opponents knew that they were in for a long, humbling evening:
The Zion Games didn’t feel real most of the time, more like some kind of fever dream. Just to see a dude that massive, yet somehow more athletic than everyone else on the court by a factor of about 10, is astonishing. I still remember watching him go up for an alley-oop and seeing him float in the air like he was made of helium or something.
Even though these kids knew that they were in for a humbling beat down from one of the great players of their age – or any age – their appreciation and respect for Zion was what was most interesting to me.
All that said, Zion is genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever played against, just super positive and humble. He was a huge deal in high school, especially in South Carolina. We had an unofficial team policy that you weren’t allowed to take a picture with him after the games, just to maintain what little integrity we had. But that still didn’t stop a lot of the younger guys — and even some coaches — from doing it. To Zion’s credit, he was always willing to talk to anyone as well as always encouraging to the younger guys. Everyone should really be rooting for him to succeed. He’s a great guy, and he’s overcome a lot to get to where he’s at.
Maybe current and future stars from across the sports spectrum can take a cue from the 20 year old rookie from New Orleans. Be humble and show respect to your opponents no matter how good your are and no matter what the outcome of the contest is.