Zion Williamson is a phenomenon. The Duke freshman is a living highlight reel that has helped the Blue Devils get off to an 8–1 start to this season.
But he's also a 6-foot-7, 285 pound forward that sticks out compared to everyone else on the court. When opponents step between Williamson and the basket, they have a choice to make – draw the charge or get out of the way.
While Williamson just burst onto the national scene this season at Duke, he's been a legend in his hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. for quite some time. The Wall Street Journal spoke to some of Williamson's high school opponents who faced the phenom and survived drawing a charge to discover exactly what they endured.
Chris Arp coaches basketball at Spartanburg Christian Academy and also teaches honors physics. One of his students, Jonathan Gaminde, asked Arp in class once how much momentum is generated by a force like Williamson. Gaminde knew what it felt like from personal experience. He compared drawing a charge from Williamson to a quarterback being blindsided by a defensive end.
"I quickly realized what I had just done," Gaminde toldThe Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper passed along clips of Williamson's charges to University of Lynchburg physicist Eric Goff to determine exactly how much force players like Gaminde encounter. Goff said the maximum force of impact during a Williamson charge is 300 pounds–the same amount as the average force "during a similar, head-on collision with a Jeep traveling 10 miles per hour," according to The Wall Street Journal.
"Some of the same physics ideas that are used to study car crashes and analyze fundamental particles slamming into each other at nearly the speed of light may be used to study collisions between basketball players," Goff said.
Williamson hasn't been called for a charge yet during Duke's regular season, and we can't blame any of the opposing teams for not attempting to risk it.