The most famous high school basketball player on the planet missed nearly all of the spring grassroots season with a knee injury. In his first game back this summer, Zion Williamson did this:
Zion Williamson dunks still can't believe this guy is in high school pic.twitter.com/4gmELdE4Nr— NBA Jumpshot (@NBAJumpshot) July 10, 2017
This past week, he followed it up with this:
In between, he completed one of the most furious chase-down blocks you will ever see. All of this for a player who has yet to start his senior year of high school and just turned 17 years old earlier this month.
Williamson is ranked as the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2018 behind Marvin Bagley III, but it feels like no high school player since LeBron James has generated this much attention. He became a household name last year for the outrageous dunking ability he displayed at Spartanburg Day School, which earned him appearances on cultural institutions such as SportsCenter and Drake’s Instagram account.
You can make an easy case that Williamson is already more famous than a sizable percentage of the NBA. He creates more social media buzz in a weekend than Khris Middleton has in his entire career. He has 150K more Instagram followers than C.J. McCollum! Williamson is going to get even bigger as he enters his senior year and speculation around his college recruitment heats up, so I want to set the table here with a take.
Zion Williamson is already one of the best dunkers I’ve ever seen.
I understand this is a bold claim, so I brought some evidence. Here, just watch this:
Yes, there have been more than a few high school players who rose to notoriety off the strength of mixtapes. As a 14-year-old, current North Carolina guard Seventh Woods was the subject of a mixtape with almost 15 million views. Cassius Stanley, a five-star guard in the class of 2019, has a mixtape wondering if he’s “The BEST Athlete in HS Since Vince Carter?!”
What makes Williamson different is his combination of weight and explosiveness. He’s still listed at 230 pounds by most recruiting services, but that seems like an old measurement. He’s probably at least 15 or 20 pounds heavier than that. Even at the NBA level, players carrying that much weight cannot explode like Williamson. It is frankly unfair to put him on the same court as his pimply faced teenaged peers. Someone might get hurt.
The other thing that sets Williamson apart is his approach to the game. He plays with a level of aggression and intensity that will remind you of Russell Westbrook.
Zion Williamson is a raging bull. Refreshing to see. Rarely, if ever, see focused angry intensity anymore. I miss the anger in basketball.— Jerry Meyer (@jerrymeyer247) July 13, 2017
Williamson is a special dunker in games ...
In warmup lines ....
And in practice:
As pure spectacle, Williamson is already one of the best dunkers I have ever seen. Anyone who saw his game against LaMelo Ball in Las Vegas knows the type of scene he’s capable of creating:
As a lifelong admirer of the slam dunk, I understand the weight of these words. I have watched Vince Carter’s 100 greatest dunks about 50 times. I had a picture of Michael Jordan’s free throw line dunk in my childhood home growing up. I consider Gerald Green’s cupcake dunk to be a seminal moment in NBA history. I can tell you all about James “Flight” White.
To me, Carter is still the GOAT, but Williamson has at least put himself in the conversation well before he ever attends senior prom. Please, just let this kid stay healthy. For Zion Williamson, this is only the start.