This has got to be tampering right? If not, it's at least one of the most hopeful stories fans of the New York Knicks will be enjoying over the next few years. After Sunday's tough overtime loss to Julius Randle & Co., New Orleans Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson was asked about his experience playing at Madison Square Garden. Check his full response here:
Zion Williamson when asked about playing in MSG & NY;
"I think outside of New Orleans, it's my favorite place to play basketball" 👀 pic.twitter.com/4iLc8Mt8gZ
— TheBenchWarmer🏀 (@BenchWarmerPost) April 18, 2021
Now, to be fair, Williamson might just be the most wholesome superstar of all time. He has all the honesty of Kobe Bryant, but with the unabashed pure joy of a younger Magic Johnson, so maybe we shouldn't be reading into his statement too much. But it was less than three preseasons ago when New Yorkers were banking their entire future on getting ahold of the young phenom in the draft, only to have their hearts dashed by sliding in the draft order. To hear him say how much he loves playing in their city has to be immediately heartbreaking, and Williamson has got to know on some level that his words carry weight:
“I’m glad you asked that,’’ Zion Williamson said, grinning. “New York is the mecca of basketball. I love playing here. I played here in college [at Duke]. This is my first time playing in the pros. This atmosphere, whether they’re cheering for you or booing you, it’s amazing. Outside of New Orleans, obviously, this might be my favorite place to play. I can’t lie to you.’’
Now, for normal people, fans, and cities, this statement is obviously just a nice compliment, but you have to keep in mind that he isn't talking about a normal city. He is talking about New York City, and there is magic to the place that makes Madison Square Garden The Mecca of basketball. The city is like a magnet, and if you remember, almost every superstar has been linked to it at some point in their career, especially after the year 2000. And read that quote one more time: he liked being asked that question. Zion wanted to talk about New York and MSG. Woj's take puts it best:
Woj speaks on Zion to New York pic.twitter.com/RgsUoIvgEs
— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) April 19, 2021
There is no way in hell Zion Williamson simply doesn't know what his impact on the league would be if he took his talents to New York. He's already one of the faces of the league in small-market New Orleans, and backing it up with his play as arguably the most unique physical specimen to ever play this game: a 6'6, nearly 300lb power forward averaging 26.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game on a PER approaching 28. Of course, these numbers, while ridiculous, barely do justice for what this near-adolescent freak of nature can do on a basketball court. Williamson is only an inch taller than James Harden, nearly as heavy as a prime Shaquille O'Neal, and has the physicality of a prime Shawn Kemp.
Read that sentence again, go look up some of his highlights, and picture that walking dollar sign walking through the doors of Madison Square Garden in a Knicks jersey. The basketball world would implode. People would actually start wearing Knicks jerseys again. The team is good this season, for sure, but no one is buying Julius Randle jerseys outside of New York.
If not Zion Williamson himself, his team is definitely looking at this statement and salivating. The young face of the league playing in its biggest market, alongside a competently coached squad. By the way, make no mistake: this is a real possibility. New York currently has Zion's best friend from college in RJ Barrett, and plenty of cap space to extend Barrett, keep Randle, and take Zion to boot. A big three led by Williamson would start an absolute riot in the streets of Manhattan, and if Zion is preciously unaware of that possibility, his team definitely is.
Pelicans brass should be circling 2023 in red ink and listing it as a doomsday, Y2K-level offseason. They will need to do everything they can to keep Zion Williamson happy in the bayou, not just for them, but for the entire NBA. Because the one thing the world doesn't need is more Knicks fans.