With a combination of power, speed, ferocity, and skill, Zion Williamson has dominated the competition en route to becoming an early-season MVP (Most Valuable Player) candidate and catapulted the New Orleans Pelicans to the top of the rankings.
Currently, the New Orleans Pelicans are second in the Western Conference with a record of 21–12, and Zion is leading the way averaging 25.2 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 4.7 assists per game, and 1.2 steals per game. His ability has bewildered opponents and given the young Pelicans team confidence to compete amongst the elite.
After missing the entire 2021–22 season due to a foot injury and a poor fitness level, many pundits and executives around the NBA (National Basketball Association) felt Zion could have a career trajectory similar to Greg Oden. Oden was a highly touted prospect out of Ohio State University, drafted number one overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2007 NBA draft. Unfortunately, he never managed to display the skill set that dominated all opposition at the collegiate level because he constantly missed games due to injury. Zion is making those comparisons disappear with improved discipline and changed habits. With a commitment to fitness in the off-season, Zion transformed his body and reclaimed all the athleticism that helped him become an NBA all-star in the 2020–21 season. Zion’s play has made the Pelicans organization look wise for extending his contract despite his injury history.
Despite missing approximately 159 games (playing 110 out of 269 games) throughout his career due to injury, the New Orleans Pelicans offered Zion a five-year contract extension worth a total of $193 million. It could reach up to $231 million guaranteed if all incentives included in the contract are acquired. Even though the risks were high, the Pelicans General Manager Trajan Langdon, Executive Vice President David Griffin, and the rest of the brass remained committed to the process. Ultimately, their faith and unwavering support of Zion and its nucleus could lead the organization to an NBA championship.
Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, and others have provided a mixture of toughness, playmaking, and clutch perimeter scoring to compliment the low post dominance Zion displays every game. Initially, there was doubt if the team would ever realize their full potential with the uncertainty of Zion’s health. However, support from players like CJ McCollum, who encouraged Zion to overcome adversity by turning pain and despair into motivation, ultimately changed everything. Zion was able to unleash his full array of skills after battling through depression and reemerged as one of the faces of the NBA. Zion also drew inspiration from the cartoon/anime Naruto to keep a positive attitude despite facing trials and tribulations. The focus allowed him to stay grateful and remain positive despite what the media negatively said about him. Now he is showing true resilience with his comeback season.