Zion Williamson made his NBA debut last night (1/22/20) and made it with a splash, the phenom from Duke was able to score 22 points in just limited action on the court vs the San Antonio Spurs. The effects that Williamson debut has isn't just for himself, not even just his team, New Orleans Pelicans, but the entire NBA. While there may be some reasons why the NBA ratings down, well, just that, ratings are down, but if there is a generational talent like Williamson playing on a night to night basis, then no one will want to miss a single game. We are already seeing this out of Ja Maront of the Memphis Grizzlies who is turning into a superstar game by game.
Everyone was hoping that, before the game, ESPN (who was broadcasting Williamson's debut) would show some live shots of phenoms pre-game routine. The only issue with that is the Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors game that was on beforehand ran long, so the only images we could get of Williamson warming up, would be when ESPN would cut in/out of commercial break during the game. Once the game was over, ESPN immediately cut from their current game and went to the Pelicans warming up, prior to a quick studio pre-game update. Even as the pre-game images were rushing in, ESPN's Adam Amin made a comment about the nerves that Williamson was feeling as he was partaking in the Pelicans shoot around. As the final commercial break came to a close, the stage was set, Zion Williamson was announced to be in the starting line-up for the New Orleans Pelicans, and was set to make his NBA debut.
More that meets the eye
While the number one storyline for this game is that superstar in the making Zion Williamson was making his NBA debut, there was more than just that one. For this game, the New Orleans Pelicans were playing the San Antonio Spurs. Both teams are less than four games out of playoff spot, and the Pelicans had won 11 out of their last 15 games and were still in contention ever after a 13 game losing streak earlier in the season. The San Antonio Spurs were in a tight battle for the 8th and final playoff spot with the Memphis Grizzlies, and the Spurs, coached by Gregg Popovich, are always one of the best coached teams in basketball. But, ever since their key pieces like Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have taken a "fall from grace."
Then everything changed
After the first tip, New Orleans Pelicans were trying to get Zion the ball, and every time he touched the ball the sellout Smoothie King Center crowd would erupt. I mean, for a stadium that averaged a little over 16,000 fans in 2018-2019, anything they can do sellout their stadium they will do. After Nickiel Alexander-Walker went for a short jumper that missed, Williamson got the rebound and exploded up to put the ball off the backboard and make his first NBA bucket. Williamson didn't stop there. Pelicans' head coach, Alvin Gentry, made it clear pregame that Williamson would play in spurts that would let him get some experience but also keep him lose and fresh. But, in the 4th quarter, everything changed. After Lonzo Ball drove to the basket, he made a push pass out to Williamson, who took the three-pointer and made it with ease, to the delight of the Pelican crowd in attendance. Then on transition, Ball would find Williamson would again sink another three and another and another. During a three minute stretch, Williamson would make 4 straight three pointers. As the game came to a close, the Pelicans ultimately fell short in beating the Spurs 121-117, but Zion Williamson made his impact known throughout the NBA world.
There hasn't been an NBA debut this anticipated since some guy named LeBron James made his debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Williamson finished, tied with most team points scored in the game with teammate Brandon Ingram, with 22. Prior to the game on Fan Duel, the over/under for points scored by Williamson was at 13, prior to his late game surge, it appeared that may not even reach 10. Williamson also only played 18 minutes in the game - the least amount for any Pelicans player with double-digit points scored in the game. Moving forward with this game, Williamson may not get to touch 30 minutes of playing time this season, but if he can develop his game this season, and find a way to stay healthy. Then we have a superstar in the making for the next 15 years.