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Zion Williamson on 1st Game vs. Knicks in MSG: 'I Love Playing Here'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2021

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) during a break in game action during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 18, 2021, in New York. The Knicks won in overtime 122-112. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, Pool)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson relished his first opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden in the NBA.

Following the Pelicans' 122-112 overtime defeat, Williamson told reporters he "love[s] playing here" and that the venue "might be my favorite place to play outside of New Orleans."

Williamson's comments will obviously have some Knicks fans dreaming of a day when the 6'7" forward is prowling the paint for the franchise. This isn't the first time he has spoken of his affinity for The Garden, either.

When Duke was preparing to play in the Big Apple in December 2018, Williamson called MSG a place "where big names are made."

Of course, the Knicks probably would've won multiple titles over the past 15 or 20 years if they had signed every star player who spoke lovingly about Madison Square Garden.

LeBron James has always savored a road matchup against the Knicks. After dropping 61 points on New York in 2009, Kobe Bryant also said the arena was "special" because of how fans are willing to laud performances by opposing players.

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Of course, Carmelo Anthony is the only marquee star in recent seasons to actually welcome the challenge of attempting to restore the Knicks back to glory. Things are improving under team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau, but the 2019 offseason illustrated the folly of thinking the organization can attract big names without first enjoying sustained stability.

And with regard to Williamson, it will probably be a long time before an exit from New Orleans becomes a realistic possibility. He isn't eligible for restricted free agency until 2023, at which point you'd expect the Pelicans to put a max deal on the table.

But that probably won't stop enterprising fans from photoshopping Williamson into Knicks threads.