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Just Because Zion Isn’t Playing Doesn’t Mean He Can’t Overshadow The Final Four

Or at least cast some shade.

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NCAA Men’s Final Four - Previews
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 05: Zion Williamson of the Duke Blue Devils speaks during a press conference after being awarded the USBWA Oscar Robertson Trophy Player of the Year as Oscar Robertson looks on prior to the 2019 NCAA men’s Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 5, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Oscar Robertson is 80 now but the statue that is given annually in his honor by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association for their National Player of the Year award is made in the image of this iconic photograph and as much as any image can, it shows how far ahead of his age he was.

So to us it’s striking that he would sit with Zion Williamson as he got his award, one prodigy aged and gray haired but obviously still vital, the other young and twitchy.

You see them together and you kind of get the idea that Robertson, retired for decades, wants to take his measure, that he’d like to get Williamson out on the court and show him a thing or two.

Competitiveness is hard to get away from.

Williamson isn’t at the Final Four as competitor but he’s still pulling the train this season so ESPN and other sites are featuring the young star as much as possible. As of this writing, he’s on ESPN’s front page four times, including as the feature story where he scouts the remaining teams, above all four still left.

There’s no doubt Zion sells. He’s local news of course, as we will show in today’s Tournament Linkage. But he's become something more than just a talented player. He’s become a phenomenon as the number of stories indicate. We’re approaching the outskirts of Beatleville and Elvis City, which is pretty extraordinary for our fragmented age. When you see UNC fans exulting in his charisma, as we did in Charlotte, something big is happening.

We’ll be really interested to see who his agent is and who advises him on how presents himself to the world. Williamson has a certain charisma that can’t be faked or manufactured. He clearly loves the game, he plays hard at all times and he moves like an airborne bull in a bullfighting ring.

He’s gotten tons of advice this year, almost all of it unsolicited and from people who clearly don’t understand him very well. We’re not claiming we do either - we’ve never met him - but we think this is reasonable for anyone who is moving into great opportunity as well as significant risk. His biggest job is both the hardest and the simplest: just to always be himself. Nothing more, nothing less.

Managing all of that is going to be challenging. Not to say that he isn’t authentic because clearly he is and that's a huge part of his appeal. But if he makes a misstep it’ll be magnified.

His instincts have been superb so far though, both on and off the court. Watching him grow into expectations is going to be very interesting.

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