We’ve followed Zion Williamson's ascent to NBA stardom with great fascination, partly because he’s a Duke guy obviously but also because there’s never been anyone remotely like him. He’s built like a 1950s style refrigerator, about as hard to move, and has skills that allow him to play at any position on the court.
To the best of our memory, the only guys who have ever been able to do that are Magic Johnson, who filled in at center in the 1980 NBA Finals when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar couldn’t go due to migraines and finished with 42 points.
For the rest of his career, he was a 6-9 point guard, which is still fairly unusual.
LeBron James could do it today, or at least a few years ago. He’s powerful enough to post anyone up and has skills that would allow him to play point if needed.
That’s about it.
Mavericks coach and former Virginia guard Rick Carlisle recognized this when he made these comments about Williamson:
“He’s an unusual force and obviously a great player. We’ll have to figure something a little better out next time, but he’s doing this to everybody. We did have some very good possessions guarding him, but he was a beast.
“[He] presents huge challenges for the defense and for officials. He is just creating collisions out there. This is a Shaquille O’Neal-type force of nature with a point guard skill set... You’ve got to have a lot of courage to stand in there and get run over by that guy, because he’s coming at you fast. He’s coming at you, like, it’s not just an Amtrak. It’s an Acela. It’s the fast one that doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop in Westport or wherever. It just goes — phew! — straight to New York City. It’s something else.”