Jay Connor | THE ROOT
Zion Williamson is a force of nature, and for three agonizing months, millions of sports junkies throughout the world waited with bated breath for Coach K’s pride and joy to unleash a tsunami upon the NBA.
Williamson’s meniscus tear in the preseason derailed the entire league: TV ratings plummeted and his new squad, the New Orleans Pelicans, nearly careened into the bottom of the standings until a recent resurgence sparked renewed hope. And finally, on Wednesday night, Basketball Jesus emerged from his tomb and the only thing that could stop his reign of terror was his own coach, current bane of the universe, Alvin Gentry.
After a slow start, Zion unleashed a full-frontal assault on the San Antonio Spurs in the fourth quarter that looked something like this:
For three minutes and eight seconds, we bore witness to what can best be described as “tearing the Spurs a new asshole” as the 19-year-old phenom scored 17 consecutive points in one of the most insane displays of superhuman powers in recent memory. His opponents watched helplessly as our new Lord and Savior knocked down trey after trey with relative ease.
Yet with 5:23 remaining, and victory well-within the Pelicans grasp, Gentry did the unthinkable: He benched Zion.
No, seriously. I’m not making that up.
He. Benched. Zion.
Gentry had some explaining to do after his team inevitably lost by four points, and he pinned his decision to bench the nuclear weapon at his disposal on a minutes restriction.
“He couldn’t go back in the game, so don’t go there,” Gentry told reporters after the game. “Just because the medical people said that was it.”
Zion finished the game with 22 points, seven boards, and three assists in only 18 minutes of burn. And the Spurs aren’t stupid. They know they dodged a bullet.
“I’m glad he’s back,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s quite a package, both as a player and as a person.”
“He’s special, you know?” shooting guard DeMar DeRozan said. “Anybody who’s been following basketball the past few years seen the talent that he has, you know? Hope [he’s] able to stay healthy and be able to put it together. The sky’s the limit for him.”
As for Zion, he took the high road in discussing his coach’s decision.
“It’s very hard,” he said. “I’m 19. Honestly, in that moment, I’m not thinking about longevity. I’m thinking about winning the game. So it was very tough.”
Once that minutes restriction is lifted, the rest of the league might want to invest in some disaster insurance. Because it’s abundantly clear that the rookie phenom is about to wreak havoc for years to come.