After his first ever game at Duke, it was clear Zion Williamson was ready for the next step. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr recognized Williamson’s greatness immediately, comparing him to LeBron James.
At that point, it was obvious Williamson should leave college after just one season. That became even more apparent when Williamson went out and continued to dominate as a freshman. Even a late knee injury wasn’t going to prevent Williamson from being the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
And yet, despite all that, Williamson didn’t want to make the leap. The 19-year-old Williamson told The Ringer that he wanted to return to Duke for his sophomore season, but was eventually convinced to go to the NBA.
If you think that’s ridiculous, and that there’s no way Williamson seriously considered passing up the chance to be the No. 1 overall draft pick, you wouldn’t be the first.
“Nobody ever believes me,” Williamson said. “They think I’m just saying that, but no. I genuinely wanted to go back.”
As Williamson explained, he knew that the NBA would still be there after his sophomore season. He could always make the leap then.
While you might think Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski would have been fully on board with Williamson coming back, that wasn’t actually the case. Williamson said Krzyzewski would not have allowed him to return to Duke. Williamson said Krzyzewski wanted Williamson to do what was best for his family, and that meant Williamson would have to go pro.
Eventually, Williamson was convinced to make the leap after talking with his mom and stepdad. They convinced Williamson that going to the NBA was the right choice. They argued that Williamson had worked for that opportunity his entire life, and he couldn’t pass it up now.
While Williamson has yet to play his first NBA game, he probably doesn’t regret the decision to go pro. The New Orleans Pelicans made Williamson the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and gave him a two-year, $20 million deal.
Williamson is currently working his way back from offseason knee surgery, but is inching closer to a return. The start of his NBA career may have been frustrating, but Williamson should have plenty of opportunities to prove leaving college early was the right choice.
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