Sports

After Just 14 Games for Zion Williamson, Rival Coach Compares Him to Michael Jordan

The comparisons between Duke phenom Zion Williamson and NBA superstar LeBron James just weren’t enough, apparently.

Now Williamson is being brought up in the same breath as the legendary Michael Jordan.

The Blue Devils’ freshman forward, who leads the NCAA in player efficiency rating, elicited the MJ comparison when Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton discussed him ahead of a Saturday matchup between FSU and Duke.

The Seminoles coach said Williamson is “the most phenomenal talent in the ACC since Michael Jordan.”

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Williamson has certainly impressed 14 games into his career, but is he really a more phenomenal talent than Len Bias, Tim Duncan and Vince Carter?

Hamilton is a North Carolina native like Jordan and has been a coach at the college or NBA level since 1971. He also was the Washington Wizards head coach in 2000-01 while Jordan was the team’s president of basketball operations.

It’s been 35 years since Jordan played at UNC, and the game has certainly changed over that span. Having said that, Williamson’s stats exceed what Jordan accomplished in college.

Earlier this season, Williamson brought up Jordan’s name, among other legends, when asked who he modeled his game after.

“I tried with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird,” said Williamson. “That’s when I was growing up because my mom would talk about them a lot. Jordan because Jordan would fly through the air and was the ultimate competitor and would apply himself on both ends of the floor.

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Do you think Zion Williamson is the most phenomenal ACC talent since Michael Jordan?

“Larry Bird because he might not have been the fastest … most skilled maybe. But he played hard and just thought the game through and that’s what made him a great player. And Magic Johnson because he just brought an exciting feel to the game without even scoring, just by passing the ball. So, I’m gonna say those three.”

From a physical standpoint, Williamson is most often compared to LeBron, and an opposing coach who’s seen James often would agree.

“I saw some kid on Duke last night who was pretty impressive,” Steve Kerr said after Williamson’s debut college game. “Oh my goodness. I probably can’t say anything more or mention his name . … The one who is 285. LeBron, I thought that was a one-shot deal, but apparently the next guy’s coming.”

Williamson dominated the early part of Duke’s schedule, which was against mostly mid-major schools. But since the calendar flipped to 2019 and Duke started its conference schedule, he’s been even better.

He averaged 19.8 points per game in non-conference games but has averaged 27.5 points per game in two ACC matchups.

Williamson is coming off a career-high of 30 points in his first road college game, at Wake Forest, and Duke will match up with Hamilton’s No. 13 Seminoles on Saturday in a key ACC battle.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
Location
Houston, Texas
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