Monday Superlatives

The mystery's over: Zion Williamson will be an NBA star

October 14, 2019
New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs
Logan Riely

No need to gild the lily with endless words: Zion Williamson has played three NBA preseason games, and it's already clear that he's going to be one of the best players of his generation. Just watch him work, starting most recently with the Jazz:

Then the Bulls:

Then the Hawks:

In those three games, he's 27-38 from the field. TWENTY-SEVEN FOR THIRTY-EIGHT!

The fact that it's preseason doesn't even really matter—the Pelicans are wisely treating him not as a primary offensive option, but just letting him do what he does best, which is crashing the boards, running the break, and basically being opportunistic and finding empty space in the offensive set. Everything people worried about is irrelevant—he doesn't need to be the world's best shooter, his athleticism easily makes up for his lack of height (there's not a center in this league who can guard him if the Pelicans choose to use him that way), he can finish under duress on a level with the game's best, and he benefits from the NBA's freedom of movement to such an extent that he'll probably be better than he was at Duke, even against better competition. Add in the fact that he plays every minute like it's game seven of the finals, and it's a virtual guarantee—provided he keeps his health—that this man is going to be filling stat sheets and making all-star games for a very long time.
On top of all that, he's reportedly been in the gym in the early mornings and late at night working on his game, which shows a kind of work ethic that will only make him better. All those concerns that his style of play wouldn't translate to the NBA look ridiculous before he's even started his rookie campaign. This guy is a stud.

All hail Zion. All hail New Orleans.

The Greatest Called Shot of the Week: Ed Orgeron, LSU

Speaking of Louisiana, undefeated LSU hosted undefeated Florida on Saturday night, and before the game Tom Rinaldi asked LSU coach Ed Orgeron how they'd take advantage of Florida's inexperience at quarterback. This was his answer:

There were a few great things about this:

1. His gravelly voice sounds like he just got done rasslin' some catfish down in the Bayou.

2. He wasn't answering Rinaldi's question so much as reciting a catch phrase, the delivery of which was very good.

3. LSU went on to beat Florida, so he called his shot and it came true.

More Coach O, please.

The "This Story Should Be Way Bigger" Story of the Year: Marathon Man

I don't quite know if my understanding of history is accurate, but I like to imagine that when Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, or when Edmund Hillary summited Everest, there were entire families in, I don't know, Nebraska, letting the corn stalks go uncut for a day as they huddled around the family radio marveling at these triumphs of human endeavor. I want to imagine that in New York City the people poured out of their apartments and onto the street, and that across the world there was much rejoicing.

Whether or not my fantasy bears any resemblance to reality, I can tell you that when Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour limit in the marathon for the first time in human history...I wanted a little more. Watch him accomplish a feat of endurance so difficult, so impossible, that no man or woman has ever done it before:

And sure, it got some play on Twitter, and it was a digital topic of conversation for a bit, but by Sunday most of America was more concerned with whether the Dolphins would cover against the Redskins. I wouldn't change our world for the old one, mind you—we live in a more fractured sports landscape, but I love the unprecedented televised access to everything from the NBA to British Pub League Darts. And yet I can't help thinking that Kipchoge is a small casualty of modern life, and that his monumental achievement shouldn't be forgotten so quickly.

The "I'm So Glad This is Happening to Boston Fans" Thing of the Week: LegRoomGate

The Boston Garden got an "upgrade," and the main result, as far as fans are concerned, is thetotal lack of legroom. Deadspin compiled the tweets that rolled in from the Celtics preseason games, and it looks really bad:

Now, the degree to which you find this aggravating or hilarious will depend largely on how you feel about Boston fans in general. So to literally every sane person outside New England, you're welcome for the high comedy. And to everyone inside New England, maybe you can use the power of your collective arrogance to push the seats back, the way some people bend spoons with their minds.

The "Sabermetrics Is Overrated" Story of the Week: Adam Eaton and George Costanza

Here's the Nationals' Adam Eaton describing his thought process as he faced a 3-2 count in the eighth inning in game two of the NLCS, just before he hit a two-RBI double that effectively put the game on ice:

*"Everything I was thinking, they did the opposite," Eaton said. "So I was thinking 3-2 [count] should be a heater here and I'm like, well, that's the opposite, so I should George Costanza it and just go ahead and said breaking ball, and that's what happened."

In a 1994 episode of "Seinfeld" called "The Opposite" the hard-luck Costanza implements the advice of Jerry, who suggested, "if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."*

That's good stuff, but only as long as Eaton remembers a critical fact: Even though Seinfeld himself was a loathsome Mets fan, Costanza literally worked for the Yankees.

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