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Pelicans’ Zion Williamson admits watching older NBA players to ‘break down their games’

Zion Williamson, Pelicans

Zion Williamson is not a common rookie by any means. Besides his freakish athleticism, otherworldly strength, a quick second jump, and cat-like reflexes on the glass, the New Orleans Pelicans star is also a student of the game, admitting to have watched tape and highlights of some of the game’s greatest players.

The Pelicans rookie ticked off names like Earl Monroe, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James before going into detail about Magic Johnson’s game:

“Whenever I do my research on the game of basketball and see older people like Earl Monroe, or ’90s babies like Michael Jordan, or early-2000s like LeBron, I like to break down their games,” Williamson told Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report, “and even though it’s different decades, they all brought their own flavors to the game.

“I paid attention to the small things. Like when I’m in the barbershop or something and somebody would be like, ‘You know who you really need to go watch is Magic Johnson. You don’t know who that is.’ Some kids are like, ‘Alright, whatever.’ [Me], I’m going to go watch full-game highlights on him, full clips of how he played the game.

“If you watched his highlights, Magic, before the ball is bouncing up in the air for that rebound, he already took his picture of the court. He gets that ball, takes one dribble and he already knows where that ball is going. He already knows where his teammates are going to be, and he sees the play before it happens. You watch that on film, it’s crazy for somebody to have a mind like that and be a 6’9″ point guard.”

Zion Williamson has incredible innate gifts for the game of basketball, but like many other players, those are only activated with basketball intellect, the ability to adapt, and a work ethic to follow it. That recipe has turned good players into great players, and some greats into legends.

The South Carolina native¬†already looks like a star himself, averaging an impressive 22.1 points and 7.5 rebounds for his first 10 games with the Pelicans. But he’s taking every game as an opportunity to learn more, much like he does by breaking down tape of some of the greatest players to run the hardwood.