Michael Jordan on Zion Williamson Debut: Taste of What We'll See Moving Forward

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) runs down the court in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs in New Orleans, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The Spurs won 121-117. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

NBA legend Michael Jordan said Friday the debut of New Orleans Pelicans prized rookie Zion Williamson was only a glimpse of what's to come for the first overall pick in the 2019 draft. 

Jordan, the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, provided his thoughts on Williamson's 22-point performance Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs during a press conference ahead of the Hornets' clash with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in France.

"What you saw the other night is a taste of what you're going to see going forward," MJ told reporters. "He's still got a lot to do. But I think his passion for the game is coming through the way that he plays. That's great for the league."

Williamson started a bit sluggish against the Spurs, scoring just five points through three quarters, but he was the best player on the floor with 17 points in the fourth quarter. He added seven rebounds and three assists while knocking down all four of his three-point attempts in just 18 minutes Wednesday.

Much to the disappointment of the fans inside the Smoothie King Center, he was removed from the game with just over five minutes left as part of the team's plan to remain cautious as he works back to full strength after undergoing knee surgery in October.

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"It was nice to experience those emotions," Williamson told reporters. "I was happy to be out there and be able to run out there again, but what was going through my mind was just, 'Be calm.'"

Williamson has a connection to Jordan after he signed an endorsement contract with Nike's Jordan Brand in July.

"We looked at Zion as being an impact player that would bring energy to the game of basketball," Jordan said of the partnership Friday. "We can do it with a lot of different factors and different ways of endorsing and marketing. It's a great opportunity for us."

The Pelicans haven't publicized their plans about the 19-year-old Duke product's playing time in the short term or whether he'll eventually have the restrictions removed if he remains healthy for the remainder of the regular season.

Regardless, Jordan said the league is lucky to have a player like Williamson joining its ranks.

"The NBA is very fortunate to have a talented young man who shows a certain passion about the game," he said. "That's something you can't get. You're born with it, and you share it with the rest of the world."

Williamson and the Pelicans are back in action Friday night against the Denver Nuggets.