With the NBA season returning, the Zion Williamson show once again takes centre stage as the rookie phenom continues what's been an exhilarating, show-stopping, head-turning, "drop everything and hop on League Pass right now" rookie season.
If it seems like something special happens each time he steps on the floor, well... it's because it does!
Williamson - recently named one of the cover athletes for NBA 2K21 - will look to lead the New Orleans Pelicans back into playoff contention during the eight 'seeding' games, and we've got you covered with a game-by-game rookie diary featuring the can't miss highlights, need-to-know stats and most memorable quotes.
Game 23: Efficient night, but another bubble loss
Zion's line: 24 PTS, 2 REBS, 2 AST, 83.3% FG in 22 minutes
The results: Sacramento Kings 140, New Orleans Pelicans 125
Zion was uber-efficient in the loss to the Kings. According to NBA Stats, Williamson touched the ball just 38 times and still finished with a team-high 24 points.
The rookie's impact on the stat sheet is being felt, but it hasn't translated to wins yet as the Pellies are now 2.0 games back of the ninth-placed Blazers. Hopes of a playoff berth are quickly fading.
Zion however is still giving fans highlight-reel plays. Check him out here connecting with Lonzo Ball on another alley-oop finish.
Game 22: He's baaaaack
Zion's line: 23 PTS, 7 REBS, 5 AST in 25 minutes
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 109, Memphis Grizzlies 99
Williamson got off to a rough start in the bubble, but he sure picked a good time to have a breakout game.
Led by his 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists, the Pelicans defeated the Grizzlies to keep their postseason dreams alive. New Orleans is now only two games behind Memphis for the No. 8 seed and 0.5 games behind the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs in ninth and 10th place, respectively, for a play-in opportunity.
Zion was back to his Zion ways against the Grizzlies, bulldozing his way to the basket and skying for big-time dunks.
LONZO ALLEY- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) August 3, 2020
ZION OOOOP 😳 pic.twitter.com/Vr1BOck8eN
As part of the NBA's restart, the Pelicans are one of six teams in contention for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed.
While Williamson looks to pick up where he left off in March, he was dealt a setback during the team's practice period, leaving the NBA's campus at Walt Disney World to tend to an urgent family matter.
Upon returning to Orlando, Zion was subject to a four-day quarantine period before returning to the practice floor.
Zion at practice today 💪 #WBD pic.twitter.com/lyxcQytsfN- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 29, 2020
Based on how he looked early in the restart period, he's got plenty of highlights in store.
Game 19: Dunks, dunks and more dunks
Zion's line: 23 PTS, 7 REBS, 1 AST in 31 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 120, Minnesota Timberwolves 107
Today, on things Williamson makes look easy: a full-court alley oop...
HAIL MARY TO ZION pic.twitter.com/JhD7QEEuwH- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 8, 2020
...followed by a windmill.
When you leave @Zionwilliamson all by himself, these things tend to happen pic.twitter.com/iPzVVXcXWf- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 8, 2020
Game 18: He did what?
Zion's line: 17 PTS, 6 REBS, 2 ASTS in 32 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 110, Miami Heat 104
Williamson's streak of 20-point games comes to an end, but the highlights keep on coming.
Zion caught this alley oop off the backboard 😳🐰 pic.twitter.com/Ak3I2sEVrP- ESPN (@espn) March 7, 2020
Game 17: The future is in good hands
Zion's line: 21 PTS, 6 REBS, 3 ASTS in 34 MINS
The result: Dallas Mavericks 127, New Orleans Pelicans 123
Luka Doncic and Williamson finished second and fourth, respectively, when we ranked who we believe will be the best players in the league in five years. This game was an example of why. Whereas Williamson went for 21 points and six rebounds, Doncic posted a 30-point, 17-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in an overtime win.
Young superstars. Luka 🤝 Zion pic.twitter.com/ppLsaXZgAl- NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 5, 2020
Game 16: A one-man wrecking crew
Zion's line: 25 PTS, 8 REBS, 3 ASTS in 32 MINS
The result: Minnesota Timberwolves 139, New Orleans Pelicans 134
Another day, another 20-point game for Williamson.
This time it wasn't enough for the Pelicans to get the win, but Williamson still did his thing, sometimes taking on the entire Timberwolves roster by himself.
Zion vs. the entire state of Minnesota pic.twitter.com/cu69sF1hDT- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 4, 2020
Game 14: More history
Zion's line: 24 PTS, 3 REBS, 2 ASTS in 30 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 116, Cleveland Cavaliers 104
Make that 10 straight games with 20 or more points for Williamson, which is - you guessed it - an NBA record for a player his age.
Zion Williamson is the first teenager in NBA history to score 20+ points in 10 straight games.- StatMuse (@statmuse) February 29, 2020
(h/t @ESPNStatsInfo) pic.twitter.com/sY6qIb4TEk
Game 13: The rebound that went viral
Zion's line: 29 PTS, 6 REBS, 3 ASTS in 32 MINS
The result: Los Angeles Lakers 118, New Orleans Pelicans 109
Williamson even makes rebounds look cool.
Game 12: Stars in comeback win vs. Warriors
Zion's line: 28 PTS, 7 REBS, 2 ASTS in 33 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 115, Golden State Warriors 101
Eighth straight 20-plus point games for Williamson, as he combined with Jrue Holiday to spark the Pelicans to a 12-point comeback win in San Francisco.
8 straight with 20+ for Zion!@Zionwilliamson's 28 PTS, 7 REB push the @PelicansNBA past GSW on the road!#NBARooks x #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/w2XYKVT95i- NBA (@NBA) February 24, 2020
This is Williamson's fourth straight game scoring 25-plus at better than 55% shooting, becoming the fourth rookie to do so since the NBA-ABA merger after Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Jay Williams.
Game 11: Keeping the good games coming
Zion's line: 25 PTS, 4 REBS, 3 ASTS in 29 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 128, Portland Trail Blazers 115
In a wire-to-wire win for the Pelicans in Portland, Williamson scored 20-plus points in his seventh straight game.
Zion Williamson is the youngest player in @NBAHistory to score 20+ PTS in seven straight games. Previous youngest was Carmelo Anthony in 2004. pic.twitter.com/ljzoLmKRkt- NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) February 22, 2020
He became the first rookie in the last 20 seasons with three straight games of 20 or more points in the paint.
Game 10: Making history
Zion's line: 32 PTS, 6 REBS, 1 AST in 31 MINS
The result: Oklahoma City Thunder 123, New Orleans Pelicans 118
In addition to setting a new career-high against the Thunder, Williamson became only the third No. 1 pick over the last 30 years to score 200 points in their first 10 games.
The two other players who did it? Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson.
Zion Williamson is now over 200 points (and counting) through 10 career games...- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 14, 2020
Over the last 30 seasons, the only former No. 1 picks to score 200 points within their first 10 career games are Hall of Famers Shaquille O'Neal (238 in 1992-93) and Allen Iverson (224 in 1996-97). pic.twitter.com/kDPrJec0nu
Game 9: A new career-high
Zion's line: 31 PTS, 9 REBS, 5 ASTS in 28 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 138, Portland Trail Blazers 117
According to Elias Sports, Williamson became the first rookie since NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 to record a 30-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist game in 30 minutes or less with this performance.
Williamson once again did it in spectacular fashion - three of his 10 made shots were dunks.
🗣 WE'RE GLAD YOU'RE ON OUR TEAM @Zionwilliamson pic.twitter.com/z95T453rXK- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 12, 2020
Game 7: First contest vs. the reigning MVP
Zion's line: 20 PTS, 7 REBS, 5 ASTS in 33 MINS
The result: Milwaukee Bucks 120, New Orleans Pelicans 108
Williamson's first matchup against the reigning MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo didn't disappoint. The duo went head-to-head on a few plays, providing many with a duel we could be set to see for a long time.
Advantage Greek Freak 💪#FearTheDeer pic.twitter.com/1E0Rf9j4r2- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 5, 2020
Though he found a way to stuff the stat sheet, this was Williamson's toughest game yet, as he shot just 5-for-19 from the field - the first time in his NBA career that he has shot less than 50.0% from the field.
Game 5: Career-high 24 as Pelicans with 3rd straight
Zion's line: 24 PTS (9-15 FG), 6 REBS, 3 ASTS, team-high +25 in 29 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 139, Memphis Grizzlies 111
Williamson won the first of three possible matchups between the top two picks of the 2019 NBA Draft.
Zion & Ja swap jerseys ✊ pic.twitter.com/L6YSQCFGqU- NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 1, 2020
Williamson's best bucket in this game was easily this one:
Zion caught it from BEHIND THE BACKBOARD! #WBD pic.twitter.com/gQGTiC29VG- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 1, 2020
Game 4: First road game. First win streak and a season-high in minutes
Zion's line: 14 PTS (7-13 FG's), 9 REBS, 1 AST in 30 MINS
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 125, Cleveland Cavaliers 111
The rookie gets his first taste of win streak in his first career road game as the Pelicans use a huge first quarter (40 points) to victory in Cleveland.
For Williamson, the game marked a career-high in minutes (30) as he scored 14, his fourth straight double-digit scoring game in as many games.
Zion Williamson finished with 14 points (7-13 FG) in the Pelicans win against the Cavaliers.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 29, 2020
Zion is now the first 1st-round pick to have at least 10 points and shoot better than 50% in his first 4 career NBA games.
(h/t @EliasSports) pic.twitter.com/eyVdOJCs0A
Not a lot of highlights in this one but he did his bit. Just took care of his business with zero turnovers in his time on the floor.
Coming throughhhhhhh 💨@Zionwilliamson | #WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/E5jg3B3FeD- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 29, 2020
Game 3: First double-double. First W
Zion's line: 21 PTS (9-16 FG), 11 REB in 27 MIN
The result: New Orleans Pelicans 123, Boston Celtics 108
More minutes meant more production for Williamson, who recorded the first double-double of his NBA career.
And, of course, he provided the highlights as well.
Lonzo finds Zion above the rim 💪 pic.twitter.com/WbdsLYwwbz- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 27, 2020
If the shot doesn't quite fall, Zion's got you 💪 pic.twitter.com/oebJcq4jV1- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 27, 2020
Game 2: The Follow Up
No. 1 overall pick @Zionwilliamson records 15 PTS (7-9 FGM), 6 REB and one emphatic block in his 2nd career game! #NBARooks pic.twitter.com/QuUWHkpn0z- NBA (@NBA) January 25, 2020
Zion's line: 15 PTS (7-9 FG), 6 REB in 21 MIN
The result: Denver Nuggets 113, New Orleans Pelicans 106
He didn't sink four triples but Zion did a solid job following up a historic debut.
Ultimately, we'll remember this one for two things...
Zion's first career dunk.
THAT'S THE ONE pic.twitter.com/vErDh1SjP0- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 25, 2020
And the block.
ZION WHAT THE- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 25, 2020
If y'all see that ball rolling down Poydras Street later, let us know pic.twitter.com/ckR5PXmHRV
As the minutes increase, so will the highlights. And the wins.
Game 1: The Debut
Zion's line: 22 PTS (8-11 FG, 4-4 3PT), 7 REB, 3 AST in
The result: San Antonio Spurs 121, New Orleans Pelicans 117
After missing the first 44 games of the season, Williamson made his highly-anticipated debut as the Pelicans hosted the Spurs.
It was well worth the wait.
Playing in short three to four-minute bursts, Williamson didn't do much in the first three quarters, scoring just five points.
In the fourth quarter, he exploded.
Zion Williamson's (22 PTS, 4-4 3PM) back-to-back triples and free throw capped his 17 straight PTS for the @PelicansNBA! ☔️- NBA (@NBA) January 23, 2020
📺: ESPN pic.twitter.com/GSvIdlFn5H
The 19-year-old scored 17 straight points in the fourth quarter, including a perfect 4-for-4 display from beyond the arc, electrifying the home crowd at the Smoothie King Center. A sign of things to come.
Preseason averages: 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals per game
The hype began during his lone season at Duke and it was substantiated in the preseason.
While exhibition wins and losses are inconsequential, Zion did nothing short of impress in his first games against professional competition.
Just look at the numbers:
- Oct. 7 vs. Atlanta - 16 PTS (6-13 FG), 7 REB, 3 AST, 3 STL in 28 MIN
- Oct. 9 vs. Chicago - 29 PTS (12-13 FG), 4 REB, 4 AST in 27 MIN
- Oct. 11 vs. Utah - 26 PTS (9-12 FG), 5 REB,1 AST in 23 MIN
- Oct. 13 vs. San Antonio - 22 PTS (8-11 FG), 10 REB, 2 STL in 31 MIN
If there were any doubts, they should have been erased by the final preseason game.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.