Taking On A Generational Talent Like Zion Williamson

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.

Down Goes Syracuse

Amid all the superfluous banter and ‘less-than-shock-and-awe’ over Syracuse’s loss last night to lowly Boston College, was this hilarious take down of our favorite Syracuse coaching punching bag Jim Boeheim via Grantland:

Previously undefeated Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season in surprising fashion, falling 62-59 to unranked Boston College at home. “Oh, we were definitely looking past them,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after the game. “I mean, they had six wins and we have Duke on deck. Don’t be an idiot. Boeheim then shrugged and said, “Honestly, I still couldn’t tell you a thing about how they play. They probably run an offense of some sort. But I was playing this bird flapping game on my iPad for most of the first half, before making a fart sound with his mouth.

To be clear, I could not be prouder of the Syracuse program and what they have done over the past 25 games. It was awesome and just a joy to watch, even if the games were ugly sometimes, or nail biters other times. In the long run, having Syracuse lose now is a good thing. I’d rather have it happen now than in March during the tournament.

However, losing to a team like Boston College, who has barely 6 wins, is definitely not a good reflection on the team or the coaching staff’s ability to motivate and adjust to the situation. And with the past two games and how close they were (vs Pitt and NC State), you could just feel that a loss like this was bound to happen.

Brackets Busted

A total of 8.15 million NCAA Bracket predictions were submitted to ESPN ahead of this year’s tournament.

As of Friday March 22 at 9pm EST, a grand total of 2 perfect brackets remain after LaSalle, Creighton won this afternoon. And with Florida Gulf Coast University (Florida GC! Really?) about to beat Georgetown, those lonely two will probably fall as well.

I love March Madness.

via ESPN.

MJ Hits The Hall

Today, Michael Jordan is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with C. Vivian Stringer, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, and David Robinson. ESPN has put together a compilation of the 23 best moments of MJ’s career (Note: ESPN could have done a better job of this page by making the videos play continuously instead of the way they have it, which requires the user to click on every clip).