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Zion Williamson and New Orleans Pelicans proving to be perfect marriage

Jim Eichenhofer, nba.com/pelicans

Tuesday 24 March 2020 09:41, UK

Zion Williamson rises to the rim for a two-handed dunk
Image: Zion Williamson rises to the rim for a two-handed dunk

Less than a year into his NBA career, the connection between Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson and the city of New Orleans has proven to be a perfect marriage.

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Confident but not cocky, widely-celebrated but remaining humble, the 19-year-old embodies many of New Orleans' best traits. Since arriving in the Big Easy last summer, Williamson has consistently put others before himself, as evidenced by his recent vow to help Smoothie King Center staff members cover lost wages due to the NBA's suspended season.

The Duke product and No 1 overall pick is also beloved by his veteran team-mates, who appreciate his selfless approach and eagerness to simply want to be part of the team.

Zion Williamson throws down a two-handed dunk against Minnesota
Image: Williamson throws down a two-handed dunk against Minnesota

During countless interviews since becoming a pro, Williamson has emphasized the impact of his upbringing and family-first mentality, something he touches on repeatedly when describing his background and interests away from basketball.

Best moments as an athlete?

Whenever I won a championship, whether it was winning the ACC championship at Duke, my three-peat (of state titles) in high school, or a youth-league championship when I was younger. The championship moments are always the best and the ones you remember.

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Why did you choose to wear No 1?

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I had it at Duke. I thought about going back to my high school number of 12, but No 1 is No 1. I'm trying to be the best. I felt like it's fitting for me.

What is your favourite thing about New Orleans?

The community. This community is very loving, very welcoming. If you love it, it will love you right back. They always have a very positive vibe about them. I don't think there has been a negative day here since I stepped foot in New Orleans.

Zion Williiamson celebrates a Pelicans basket against the Warriors 0:40
The impact of No 1 overall pick Zion Williamson on the NBA has been huge in a short period of time

What is your pregame ritual?

Put on some Jay-Z, text my mom that I love her, and go dance.

Favourite athlete as a kid?

Michael Jordan.

Zion Williamson roars in celebration after scoring against Golden State
Image: Williamson roars in celebration after scoring against Golden State

Tell us a unique childhood memory from playing basketball.

In my seventh-grade summer, we went to (AAU) nationals in Virginia. We did very well, started off 4-0 or 5-0, lost our sixth game maybe. While we were there, a random guy was watching us play and came up to me and said, 'I don't know what it is about you young fella, but you're going to be special.' At the time, I was like, 'Somebody get this stranger away from me.'

But it's those small interactions that just pop back into your memory several years later. I've been thinking about that for a while. That really hits me.

Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans 1:53
Williamson scored a career-high 35 points in the Pelicans' loss to the Lakers

Biggest lesson you've learned from basketball?

That life doesn't always go the way you want it to go. You can expect to win, but it's not (necessarily) going to happen. It can go the complete opposite way and you lose. But it's a matter of 'how do you battle that adversity?'

Who is your biggest mentor?

My stepfather is my mentor. He is also like a father to me. He taught me how to be a man, how to carry myself and how to handle my business. Even to this day he still teaches me small things and how to interact with other people, to never think I'm above anybody else. He has been a great mentor for me.

(Basketball-wise), he taught me everything I know since the day I started. He still motivates me.

Lebron James says passing on his knowledge to young NBA players like Zion Williamson is a responsibility.
Image: Lebron James shares a hug with Williamson after a Lakers-Pelicans game

What are you knowledgable about besides basketball?

Music and movies. My favourite movie is He Got Game. My favorite artists are Jay-Z, Drake and J Cole.

Part of why I say them is because a lot of their good music comes from the appreciation they have of older music that came before them. They use snippets from old songs in their music, and I think that's incredible how those three do that.

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Who would you want to play you in a movie?

Nobody. I feel like I'm one of a kind.

What's the favourite gift you have received?

When I got my car my senior year of high school. I still have it and love it, probably will never give it away or sell it. It's a GMC Yukon Denali.

Zion Williamson takes flight for a dunk in the Pelicans' win against the Timberwolves 0:10
Williamson had time to showboat with an unopposed windmill slam during the Pelicans' victory over the Timberwolves

Your favourite healthy food?

Salmon.

Three-pointer at the buzzer or posterizing dunk?

Posterizing dunk, for sure.

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