DURHAM, N.C. — Zion Williamson hasn’t quite upstaged the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. But a two-hour drive from the festivities in Charlotte featuring LeBron James and Steph Curry — both of whom raved about the 6-foot-7, wondrous Duke freshman — Williamson delivered a memorable, behind-the-scenes performance Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
You’ve seen his dunks.
You’ve seen his blocked shots.
But have you seen his unique personality?
Williamson put it on full display after helping lead Duke to a 94-78 victory over N.C. State.
The entertainment continued in the locker room, where Williamson sat next to teammate Mike Buckmire and in front of a gaggle of reporters. One noted that Williamson had exploited mismatches against N.C. State’s smaller players while scoring 32 points, three points shy of his season high.
“Who had 32?” he said.
“You had 32,” the reporter replied.
“I didn’t know I had 32,” Williamson said with a grin. “You must have gave me some of R.J.’s points.”
R.J. Barrett, Duke’s other scintillating freshman, recorded on Saturday night the fourth triple-double in Duke history with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, several of which set up Williamson for baskets.
“We got that combo like, he saw I had a small man on me, so I’d act like I’m posting up and I’d just, like, wrap around he’d just put it near the rim and I’d lay it in,” Williamson said.
He said it: Zion said coach Mike K ‘don’t coach losers’ during comeback
Seeing is believing: Zion forging new kind of legend as NBA teams salivate
Floyd Mayweather was in attendance two games after LeBron flew to Charlottesville, Va., to watch Williamson and Duke play Virginia.
“I think that’s just the Duke affect,” Williamson said. “You’ve got to understand, Coach K is the greatest coach of all time. I mean, a lot of people want to just come and experience Cameron. So, I mean, we appreciate Floyd and all.”
And how about LeBron and Curry praising Williamson during media availability Saturday during the All-Star festivities?
“They’re talking about me?” he said with a grin. “I’m in college.”
They’re talking about you, Zion.
“With his athleticism, with what we all see, to jump well beyond the 10-foot rim is incredible,” LeBron said. “I think what’s also incredible is at his size his speed, his agility, his quickness. And then to add on to that, I think he’s just a great kid.”
Said Curry, “He’s unreal. We were talking about him the other day in our team room. He has a lot of hype around him and he’s unbelievably talented, but you can’t teach, like, his passion and the way that … he plays. He plays hard every possession and I think that’s an underrated skill that kids can kind of emulate.”
So how about that, LeBron and Curry singing your praises?
“I mean, I guess it’s dope,” Williamson said. “Those are two of the best players in the league there. And then, I’m hoping to be there, like, competing against them next year.”
Does he ever get starstruck when he hears praise from the likes of LeBron?
“It’s definitely an honor that he even thinks I’m a decent player,” said Williamson, projected to be taken among the top picks during the NBA draft in June. “But at the same time, hopefully I’ll be competing against him next year, so I can’t really be too starstruck.”
Oh, and how about late in the game when he threw down a left-handed dunk, one of three dunks on the night that added to his assortment this season that include a 360 jam?
“It was like a three,” he said.
Excuse me? A mere three on a scale of 1-to-10?
“I was wide open,” Williamson said. “It was a 3.’”