Put yourself in Zion Williamson’s shoes- or shoe.
First of all, you’re probably icing your knee, wondering how big you need to be for your own foot to bust out of your shoe. Second, you’re wondering how a team with two top-5 picks, not including yourself, can roll over on their own home floor in a rivalry game (maybe).
Then, you have a decision to make. There isn’t one General Manager in the NBA that wouldn’t take Williamson with the first overall pick. Aside from Wednesday’s game, Duke is still Duke without him. Coach K can figure something out.
Nursing a Grade I knee sprain, the least severe possible, Zion Williamson finds himself in a dilemma. And if he doesn’t see one, at least the rest of the sports world does.
In 26 games this season, he’s averaging 21.6 points per game, leading the team in rebounds with 8.8 a night, and dishes out around two assists each outing. He’s also dunked on, what seems like, half of college basketball.
Zion is 6’7, 285 lbs.- he’s one inch taller than Gronk and has a full 20 pounds on him. He is a physical specimen- people are comparing him to the next LeBron James, and some already dubbing him the up and coming greatest of all time (or GOAT). What is there to possibly gain by playing the rest of the season? On the other hand, who would want to quit on their teammates and miss playing in the biggest stage a college player could possibly be in?
This is Williamson’s dilemma. With his sprain, he’ll be day to day, and probably questionable for Saturday’s outing against Syracuse. Play, and Duke probably competes for a National Championship, but risk re-injuring the knee or even another career altering injury and he’s toast. Sit, preserve yourself, get picked first overall, and cash out- but quit on your team, and Duke probably plays in the Elite Eight.
Even as a writer, analyzing the situation is tough. I’m a textbook sports fan- if you’re healthy, you go out and play 110 percent every minute you’re on the floor. If you’re not, it happens.
But it’s all different in college. This article isn’t about whether or not college athletes should be paid, but the fact remains that Zion has made $0.00 playing basketball at the nation’s biggest basketball school. Tickets for the game that he busted his knee in sold for over $2500 a pop. Is it worth it?
Now, I’m certainly not Zion Williamson. I wouldn’t even fit in his shoes. But the kid LOVES basketball, he’s said it himself. He came to Duke to PLAY BASKETBALL. Watching the game from the bench is going to strip him of some valuable time he can use to grow his brand, or sharpen whatever skills need sharpening- his jumper, free throws, IQ, anything. Did I mention he’s just a kid that loves playing basketball?
No one gets better by sitting. Certainly, it’s understandable if he decides to take the rest of the season off, nurse his legs, and get ready to posterize the NBA. But if there’s a prop bet on whether or not he plays, it’s almost a lock you’ll see Zion Williamson in a Duke uniform again this season. And you’ll see him playing important minutes in the Final Four with a chance to prove, or disprove, that he can perform on the biggest stages.
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