Over at USAToday, Nancy Armour has a column up saying that Zion Williamson is making a mockery of college basketball and should be in the NBA
We’re inclined to agree that he’s gone way beyond high expectations, but let’s consider a few things before shipping him up to the bigs.
- First, we’re just three games in. One was against a surprisingly flat Kentucky, the next was against a military academy with limited athleticism (though clearly not limited heart - they had vastly more than did the Wildcats) and the third was against a team that was clearly outclassed. Yes, he’s hit 32-39, and yes that’s insane bordering on impossible, but consider the competition, even an unprepared UK. Next week in Hawaii and Indiana after will offer some better sense of where he stands as teams begin to gear defenses towards stopping him (on the other hand, the more they do that, the better for RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish).
- As we’ve noted more than once now, his talent is off the charts. We’ve never seen anything like this guy. But like all players he has weaknesses. Bill Russell, who was probably the smartest and most intellectual player in basketball history, figured that if he could push certain guys just a few inches back, their shooting percentages would fall. We would expect Mark Few and Archie Miller, among others, to be assiduously watching film. Remember the Jordan Rules? Well, the Zion Rules are coming. Strategy is one of the most exciting parts of athletic competition. Remember Ali’s rope-a-dope vs. George Foreman? Remember how he came off the ropes and asked Foreman...”is that all you got George?” People have just begun to understand how gifted he is. Now they have to figure out what to do about it.
- As Armour pointed out, Williamson is not playing heavy minutes yet. Coach K is systematically subbing for him about a minute before TV timeouts so he gets 2-4 minutes rest. Is there a point when Zion won’t seem so Iron? We don’t know, but you can be sure other coaches are going to try to find out. Of course it could be the opposite. When Secretariat died, the autopsy revealed the champion thoroughbred had a massive heart. He just got stronger the longer he ran. Time will tell.
- Armour talks here, and wisely, about being mature enough - on and off the floor - for the NBA. This is an extraordinarily fast world. As we learned from Magic Johnson’s exposure to HIV and the Gold Club trial, a lot of what happens off the court is probably fun for the players, but not necessarily healthy in a holistic sense. We remember hearing about Kevin Garnett going back to his hotel rooms as a 17-year-old and playing video games while the other guys hit the bars. Using women and then throwing them away like empty beer cans is not a healthy way of life, certainly not emotionally, least of all for a teeenager. Grown men can live however they want, but throwing a wide-eyed 17-year-old into a moral sewer is a special form of child abuse. Not many kids his age can handle it. We’re not saying he can’t, just that it’s a vastly faster way of life, certainly faster than what he saw in Spartanburg, S.C. We’d be extraordinarily careful of putting a child in that environment before he’s ready for it.
That said, he and his family are the ones who would make the decision if it was open to them. The rest of us have no voice in it, nor should we.
And wherever he plays, maybe we should just all be quiet and marvel at what we’re witnessing and, as basketball fans, be grateful.
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