Zion Williamson is, quite literally, the definition of a one-of-one. Dating back to the NBA Draft, many struggled (us included!) to come up with an apt player comparison for a player with Williamson’s frame, athleticism and skill set. Three years later, LeBron James may have finally cracked the code.
Williamson was up to his typical dominant ways in the first of four meetings between the Lakers and Pelicans this season, impacting the game as a scorer and playmaker. Following the game, James spoke at length about Williamson’s offseason physical transformation, while drawing on a number of Hall of Famers in an attempt to define just why the 22-year-old is such a special player.
“He’s in great shape right now — a great talent, someone we’ve never seen,” James said of Williamson. “We’ve never seen a talent of his size, his speed, high athleticism — just like Giannis. Just like a (Charles) Barkley or Shaq (O’Neal). There’s certain talents in our league that you’ve never seen before”
Lakers’ LeBron James on Pelicans’ Zion Williamson: “He’s in great shape right now… We’ve never seen a talent of his size, his speed, his athleticism. Just like a Giannis. Just like a Barkley or Shaq. There’s certain talents in our league that you’ve never seen before.” pic.twitter.com/JmQXeCs1VR
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) November 3, 2022
Keep in mind that this is Year 20 for James, who is a one-of-one talent in his own right. The fact that James has just about seen and done it all over the course of his career adds more meaning to his assertion that Williamson is unlike anything we have ever seen.
MORE: Inside Zion Williamson’s transformation after injury
The comparisons to Hall of Famers serve as the icing on the cake. It helps that they’re accurate.
James’ high praise of Williamson’s game was not limited to the above comparisons. The 37-year-old reminded us that he really has seen it all by drawing parallels between Williamson and other left-handed stars he’s faced over the last 20 years.
“It’s so funny when you hear people say, ‘stop him from going left’ … It’s the same thing I heard for so many years with (Manu) Ginobili … Lamar Odom … When you’re great, it doesn’t matter what you do, they’re going to figure out a way.”
Despite the Lakers’ attempts to slow Williamson down, the 22-year-old finished with 27 points (on 11-of-21 shooting) and seven assists.
After the game, Williamson and James shared a long embrace at mid-court — a moment that, in many ways, felt like a passing of the torch — or at least the beginning of the process of passing the torch.
— NBA (@NBA) November 3, 2022
To no surprise, James is one of many that forecasts a bright future for Williamson.
“Zion is on the verge of being great — he’s going to be great in this league for a long time.”
If anyone knows about what sustained greatness looks like, it’s James. It’s safe to assume that the best is yet to come for Williamson.