The Loop

Is it time to be worried about Zion Williamson?

October 21, 2019

I recognize, on the one hand, that it's far too early to be writing this article about 19-year-old basketball god Zion Williamson, Pelicans rookie and former Duke wunderkind. And yet, here is the sum total of our fan experience with him so far:

1.) He comes to Duke with plenty of hype, and exceeds it by literal leaps and bounds, electrifying not just a school, but a whole country. Then, in the most anticipated game of the year against North Carolina, which Zion's presence makes such a hot ticket that even Obama attends, he famously hurts his right knee when his foot actually bursts through his Nike shoe. It kept him out almost a month, accelerated and amplified criticism of the NCAA, and arguably cost Duke a chance at the title by interrupting the team's rhythm.

2.) He gets picked first in the NBA draft by the Pelicans, but nine minutes into his first summer league game, he hurt his left knee and gets benched for the rest of the summer.

3.) When he returns to preseason action, he looks just as incredible as we all expected, and he's the antidote to the NBA's ongoing China madness. Then, in an Oct. 13 game against the Spurs, he apparently injures his right knee again, and is now out for a "period of weeks," which is as specific as the Pelicans will be right now. They say it's not serious, and they're describing it as "soreness," but he's also undergoing "further evaluation and treatment."

None of this is good. None of it may be that bad, either, and in a year we might have all forgotten the series of minor knee injuries that plagued him throughout 2019. And yet, and yet, and yet...three injuries. Eight months. The worst part is, I was already thinking about the possibility, and in fact just hours before I read the news, I had the idle thought while driving, "man, Zion rules, I hope he doesn't get hurt again." When dark premonitions come true, it makes you feel like the ground beneath your feet is caving in.

There's something about his game that feels more exciting than anything we've witnessed lately, and it was clear to me just from a few preseason reps that his style translates perfectly to the NBA. He gives off an electric vibe that's reminiscent of Steph Curry, even though their actual games could not be more different, and he's got a combination of work ethic and in-game intensity that complements his ridiculous athleticism and scoring ability. As you can tell, my personal Zion hype levels are sky-high, and that's where the anxiety comes in. Three knee injuries in the course of eight months is rough news for anyone, and I'm already starting to wonder if he's going to be what the Brits call a "nearly man." As in, nearly great, nearly historical, nearly game-changing.

I don't know want the discourse around Zion to revolve around "what if?" questions. I want him to be the once-in-a-generation star he's clearly meant to be, I want him to win championships, and I want him to be the guy my friends and kid(s) and I root for together for the next decade at least. So let this be my plea to the basketball gods: Don't take Zion away from us. Keep the injuries minor, let the knees vibrate on unheard frequencies with good health and better mojo. Let Zion be Zion, and let worries like mine fade into nothing.

The Worst Playoff Team of the Decade: The New York Yankees

I wrote recently that I'd be content with this Yankees season regardless of how the playoffs played out, and I stand by that, but it's also time to face facts—in the decade of the 2010s that is about to end, the Yankees have been, by a good margin, the worst playoff team in Major League Baseball. The timing is perfect—the team's last World Series came in 2009, and starting in 2010, they've made the postseason seven of the decade's ten years, and made the World Series times. That's made the World Series, mind you, not won it.

In that same span, the Giants have won three titles, the Red Sox two, and the Royals, Astros, Cardinals, and Cubs have one apiece. Amazingly, though, none of those teams have as many postseason appearances as the Yankees in this decade. No team does, actually, and while the Braves might have the closest argument with their 0-for-5 record in playoff series, I still say it doesn't compare to Yankee ineptitude. For sheer volume of chances, and for yanking hope away at the critical moment (see: Altuve, Jose), the Yanks take the cake.

To prove my point (or just to vent), here's Edwin Encarnacion making two outs in the same at-bat:

And if you think that's impressive, Gary Sanchez managed to make three outs in the same at-bat. These are metaphors for the decade.

Funniest Dumb Coincidence of the Year: Tom Brady, Robert Kraft

Tom Brady made a cameo in a new Netflix series called "Living With Yourself," and in that cameo, he's seen walking out of a strip mall establishment called the "Top Happy Spa." Which is hilarious, because the owner of his team, Robert Kraft ,just got nailed for soliciting sexual acts at a massage parlor in a strip mall. That's a wild coincidence, but in fact, Brady's scene was written long before the allegations against Kraft came to light, and though it was filmed after, Brady filmed in front of a green screen. When asked if he knew what he was doing, Brady became very angry. Per ESPN:

"That's not what that was about," Brady said. "I think that was taken out of context, just like you're taking it out of context and trying to make it a story for yourself, which has a negative connotation to it, which I don't appreciate. It was meant to be something different than that. The fact it's a distraction or you're bringing it up is not something I want to be talking about."

Well, Tom...what the hell else would anyone think? It's not like you have to make a big leap to connect the shady massage parlor in the TV show with the shady massage parlor in real life.

In the end, I believe Brady didn't know what he was doing, I believe he's probably very annoyed with himself (and his agents/PR team?) for not recognizing the obvious connection, and I think it's very funny that all of this happened.

The "Well That's Just Silly" Assist + Goal of the Week: Manchester City

This is just art from Raheem Sterling and David Silva:

When soccer is good, it's really good.