It happened, New Orleans.
It really did happen.
You weren’t dreaming. This wasn’t some absinthe-induced figment of your imagination.
Zion is coming.
The hulking hoops prodigy will bring his high-flying, jaw-dropping thunder-dunk show to New Orleans next month when the Pelicans select him with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft on June 20.
NOLA is five weeks away from being overtaken by the Zion Effect.
Thanks to the fortuitous bounce of four ping-pong balls at the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night (May 14), New Orleans transformed from wasteland to wonderland in the basketball world.
An organization that Chris Paul and Anthony Davis abandoned suddenly has juju again.
Zion changes everything.
The perception of the Pelicans organization.
And maybe, just maybe, the mind of its best player: Davis.
Since Davis made his ill-fated trade request in late January, the Pelicans’ profile has been altered dramatically. The club has hired one of the most respected executives in the NBA to run its basketball operation in David Griffin and is in the process of overhauling its front office. And now the Pels are poised to add the preternaturally gifted Williamson to their lineup.
Whether Davis can be swayed back in the fold remains to be seen. Tuesday’s news reportedly did not change his stance. Presumably, he still wants out. But Griffin is nothing if not undaunted, and he still plans to meet face to face with the superstar and his agent, Rich Paul, sometime soon.
If Davis isn’t intrigued by the thought of teaming with Williamson and Jrue Holiday then heaven help him. He must be motivated by more than simply winning, because that Big Easy 3 would inflict serious damage on their Western Conference rivals.
There’s a reason Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry dropped an F-bomb and the club’s ticket office staff lost its collective mind when the team’s fate was revealed Tuesday night.
Zion is a transcendent talent, a game-changer on the court and a franchise-definer off it. He will be one of the biggest draws in the NBA the minute he joins the league. The only player with comparable star power to enter the NBA in the past two decades is LeBron James.
LeBron graced the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 17. Zion has 3.2 million followers on Instagram at age 18.
Zion arrived at Duke with great expectations and somehow exceeded them. He was the only freshman to ever win ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP. He joined Davis and Kevin Durant as the third freshman to record 500 points, 50 steals and 50 blocked shots in a season.
What’s more, Williamson boasts a radiant personality and likable nature. New Orleanians are going to fall in love with his kilowatt smile and humble, selfless attitude.
Zion has the Reggie Bush sizzle with the Deuce McAllister steak. He’s Elvis in high tops.
And New Orleans already can’t get enough of the thought of him in a Pelicans uniform.
When the Pelicans improbably defied the odds to earn the No. 1 pick, New Orleans erupted with incredulous glee. At a seafood restaurant along the Lakefront, fans burst off their bar stools to exchange celebratory hugs and high-fives. Social media erupted. A longtime Saints ticket holder in Mid-City said Zion would spur her to attend Pelicans games for the first time in years. And on and on it went across the city.
These weren’t just hard-core Pelicans, mind you. These were every-day New Orleanians. The Zion Effect is real.
The last (and only) time New Orleans buzzed this way about basketball was 1974 when Pistol Pete came to town.
New Orleans deserved this.
After the the Minneapolis Miracle, NOLA No-Call and Davis debacle, New Orleans sports fans were due a little luck. They had suffered enough. The ping-pong gods put the gris-gris on them Tuesday night, and all is well again in NOLA.
Zion is the perfect player at the perfect time to resurrect Pelicans basketball.
A world of possibilities awaits.