Zion Williamson | Biography, Stats, Height, Duke, & Facts (2024)

American basketball player

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Also known as: Zion Lateef Williamson

Written by

Fred Frommer Fred Frommer is a sports historian, author, and writer who has written for a host of national publications.

Fred Frommer

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Zion Williamson

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In full:
Zion Lateef Williamson
Born:
July 6, 2000, Salisbury, North Carolina, U.S. (age 24)

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Zion Williamson (born July 6, 2000, Salisbury, North Carolina, U.S.) is a power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans and one of the most explosive players in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Since his high-school days, Williamson has impressed fans with his electrifying dunks and other dynamic plays. However, various injuries have limited his playing time in the NBA.

Early life

Williamson grew up in South Carolina. His parents, Sharonda Sampson and Lateef Williamson, are both former college athletes. His father played football at North Carolina State University and Livingstone College, while his mother ran track at the latter school. Williamson was named for Mount Zion in Jerusalem. When he was about five years old, his parents divorced, and Sampson later married Lee Anderson.

It was about this time that Williamson told Sampson that his goal was to be the number one college basketball player in the United States. Anderson—who played college basketball at Clemson University—began honing the boy’s skills at point guard. When he was nine years old, Williamson was getting up every day at 5 am for running drills and shooting practice. In middle school his mother coached his team, and Williamson averaged 20 points per game.

Williamson later attended Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina. After playing guard during his freshman year (2014–15), he subsequently shifted to forward. In his sophom*ore year he averaged 28.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks while leading the team to the first of three consecutive state championship titles. Williamson was already a celebrated hoops prospect at the age of 16, with fans sharing videos of his incredible slam dunks. USA Today called him “a 6-foot-8 [2-meter], 230-pound [104 kg] slab of manchild with a shoulders as wide as a small compact and calves straight out of the movie ‘300.’ ” He dominated the 2016 Chick-fil-A Classic by scoring 53 points, a record for the tournament. In his high-school career, he averaged 32 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.

College: Duke

During his senior year (2017–18), Williamson committed to play college basketball for Duke University. At the time, he was regarded as the second best prospect in the country, behind R.J. Barrett, who would be his teammate at Duke. But Williamson had the most hype, generating hundreds of thousands of views for his highlight clips on YouTube and being dubbed a “once in a generation-type athlete” by NBA superstar Kevin Durant.

Williamson enrolled at Duke in 2018 and was an immediate standout on the court. However, he suffered a bizarre injury at a high-profile game against in-state rival University of North Carolina in February 2019. Less than a minute into the contest, the Nike sneaker on Williamson’s left foot fell apart, leading to a knee injury that sidelined him for the last five games of the regular season. He then returned to win the Most Valuable Player award of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. In the NCAA tournament, Williamson led Duke to the “Elite Eight.” However, he struggled late in that game, and Duke was eliminated.

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Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds that season—along with an outstanding shooting percentage of 68 percent—and won a number of awards, including the Naismith Award and Wooden Award. He also was voted Player of the Year by the Associated Press. Shortly thereafter Williamson announced that he was leaving Duke to enter the 2019 NBA draft.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans

Williamson was selected as the number one pick by the New Orleans Pelicans. However, a knee injury prevented him from making his NBA debut until the second half of his rookie season (2019–20), and he averaged 22.5 points in 24 games. He improved the next season, averaging 27 points in 61 games. But he missed his entire third season (2021–22) with a foot injury, and a hamstring injury limited him to just 29 games in 2022–23, when he averaged 26 points. By the end of his fourth year in the NBA, Williamson had played just 114 games, which amounted to 37 percent of the Pelicans’ games.

Still, when he has played, Williamson has been a prolific scorer, using his strength and quickness to create opportunities while being double- and triple-teamed. During the summer before the 2023–24 season, Williamson turned to medical experts to come up with a plan that would keep him healthy for an entire 82-game NBA season. He ultimately played in 70 games in 2023–24, and he made his first postseason appearance as the Pelicans qualified for the play-in tournament. In an opening-game loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Williamson scored 40 points but missed the final minutes after suffering a hamstring injury. He was unable to play in the second game, but despite his absence the Pelicans defeated the Sacramento Kings to advance to the first round of the playoffs.

Fred Frommer

Zion Williamson | Biography, Stats, Height, Duke, & Facts (2024)
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