Zion Williamson has taken the college basketball world by storm, establishing himself as a superstar in the sport and the favorite to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. He’s put up plenty of silly numbers for the 12-1 Duke Blue Devils, averaging 20.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game for the No. 1 team in the nation.
The thing that has made Williamson such a star is what most expected to become his calling card at this level: his ability to dunk. Williamson is a high school mixtape legend, and his ability to levitate has translated to the college game.
Being known for thunderous dunks isn’t a bad thing, but when you’re someone whose game is as well-rounded as Williamson, it could be a bit of a slight against everything else you can do on the floor. In fact, Williamson spoke to David M. Hale of ESPN following the Blue Devils’ 87-65 win over Wake Forest on Tuesday and made it clear that he doesn’t want to be known as just a dunker.
“I kind of hate being classified as a dunker,” Williamson said. “Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] wouldn’t have recruited me if I was just a dunker. But I guess people on the outside don’t understand that. I can’t play to impress other people. I’m playing to get better for myself and my teammates and hopefully make a run for a national championship.”
Anyone who watches Williamson can see that he’s not just a dunker — he has a wonderfully funky game where he can handle the ball and make plays despite being the size of an SUV. While he hasn’t quite found his rhythm from three, shooting 28 percent from downtown on the year, he’s shooting an unreal 74.8 percent from the field and can get to the free throw line, where he’s shooting 70.7 percent on the year, whenever he wants.
Still, questions will exist about his game beyond the highlight reel plays, something Vince Carter told Myron Medcalf of ESPN he faced when he came into the league.
“He’ll be ready [for the NBA],” Carter said. “One thing I learned when I got in this league is that yes, I’m athletic, but there’s gonna be a lot of guys up here that are athletic. What else do you bring to the table? I think he’s going through that phase, kind of what I went through. Everybody looks at ‘he can dunk, he can dunk,’ but now when you have guys that are super athletic, then they’re going to start saying, ‘What else can he do?'”
The good news is that Williamson can do a whole lot more than use his athleticism to impact a game, so even if the perception of being “just a dunker” exists, it’s something that won’t hold him down as his basketball playing career progresses.