athlete by Conrad Hoyt December 5, 2019
Superstars are treated differently than everyone else. For the superstar, this can be both a good and bad thing.
Superstars are given more leeway by their teams, especially early on in their careers.
Organizations cater to their needs and desires, hiring their personal trainers, listening to their demands and ailments with open ears, and even sometimes asking for their opinion regarding roster building.
But with the perks, come the drawbacks, most of which consist of additional scrutiny and heightened expectations. Enter Zion Williamson.
The consensus No. 1 NBA pick Zion Williamson was a superstar at Duke University last summer and was promptly drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans, raising the floor and the ceiling for the franchise.
Zion entered summer league basketball with all eyes on him. A big, powerful force with expectations we haven’t seen from a player since Lebron James, the NBA saw a new marketable star for the league, one needed, once the King eventually declines.
The NBA scheduled a franchise-record 30 national television games for the Pelicans this year, no doubt banking on Zion playing and attracting fans from all over the country and world. Then came the meniscus tear.
On Oct. 13, in a preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs, Zion injured his meniscus, a serious injury for any player, but most prominently for someone as young as Zion. The big powerful force that Zion is only possible because of his massive size and jumping ability, but this size also serves as a bit of a deterrent.
Zion’s weight and the constant stress on his lower body from jumping do not point to sustainability, even in a relatively touch-free league like the NBA.
Even last year at Duke, on the first possession of the game against heated rivals UNC, Zion suffered an injury that turned out to not be serious.
Today, Kristen Ledlow reported that the Pelicans are going to hold Zion out further, prompting questions about whether Zion will even play at all this season.
As I reported on @NBAonTNT, Zion Williamson “turned a corner” this week. However, the team is erring on the side of caution and his return will “definitely” come outside of the 6-8 week window initially projected. #NOPvsDAL
— Kristen Ledlow (@KristenLedlow) December 4, 2019
The Pelicans are obviously preaching patience with their new franchise cornerstone. They have a young squad, and throwing Zion into the fold for a 6-15 team, if he is not ready, would not be a wise decision. Still, that can be a hard sell to fans, especially with the dip in TV ratings for the NBA so far this season.
Superstars like Zion are taken care of like no one else, but they are also under a magnifying glass of scrutiny.
Zion wouldn’t be the first superstar to sit out his first season. Hell, he wouldn’t even be the first number one pick to do so. Ben Simmons did it a few years ago, and Blake Griffin did it before him. Both players wound up winning Rookie of the Year the following year.
Zion’s number one priority right now should be to get healthy. If he can, he should try to stay in shape and even shed a few pounds, so when he does touch the court there will be less pressure on his knees.
Lowkey though, that might be tough when he’s surrounded by New Orleans cooking.
Everyone is rooting for Zion, even the ones struggling with patience. He is the so-rarely-found superstar that is just as humble as he is talented.
But with superstars comes a spotlight and scrutiny that hardly ever wavers. For some superstars, the big stage is too much. We are hoping Zion can prevail.
Ultimately, good health, both physically and mentally, is more important than sports. And this good health is paramount to succeeding for athletes anyways.
Zion is just starting a career that most believe will be worthy of the all-time-great status.
This is just a minor hiccup.
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