In the most anticipated NBA debut since LeBron James in 2003, New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson put up 22 points on 73 percent shooting in his first game, including an outstanding 17 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Williamson, a highly touted prospect drafted first overall from Duke University, has spent the last couple of months sitting on the sidelines recovering from a knee injury suffered during preseason play in October. Listed at 6’6”, 285 pounds, many have questioned whether Williamson’s weight will contribute to lingering injuries throughout his career.
The star rookie played only 18 minutes Wednesday night due to a minutes restriction from his injury, however it only took him one quarter to highlight his dynamic playstyle. After starting off slowly in the first half, Williamson exploded for 17 points in the fourth quarter and made four 3-pointers in a three-minute span before being taken out of the game. After the game, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters they will evaluate Williamson’s minutes restriction on a game-by-game basis, as the rookie told reporters he felt comfortable playing longer.
With 22 points in only 18 minutes, Williamson’s NBA debut performance ranks him near the top in the last 20 years. Other players, including LeBron James and Damian Lillard, put up more impressive overall statistics in their first NBA games but played over twice the amount of minutes. Blake Griffin also suffered a knee injury before his rookie season and sat out his entire first year before returning in 2010, going on to have one of the best debut seasons ever.