Zion Williamson Generates Excitement Like an NBA Legend

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Welcome to Shades Of, where SI experts discuss young, emerging stars across all sports in the context of which current veterans or retired athletes they draw comparisons to, based on everything from stats to stature, style and more.

Who does Zion Williamson remind you of?

Zion Williamson, the explosive Pelicans forward who recently completed his rookie season, is hard to put into a box. Williamson has the body of an even thicker Charles Barkley, the hype of LeBron James, and the leaping ability of a video game character using all the cheat codes. When I watch Zion Williamson play, it would be reductive to get caught up in comparing him to other players. What Williamson does is create emotion. The anticipation he creates every time he jumps, every time he rises for a dunk, or merely any time he catches the ball and you don’t know what’s going to happen next is what makes him special.

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So if I had to compare Zion Williamson to somebody, it would actually be Vince Carter. The former UNC star recently completed his final season in the NBA, but once upon a time was known as Half-Man, Half-Amazing. Zion and Vince will never share the same basketball game. Williamson will never be a perimeter-oriented scorer. He probably outweighs him by a good 80 pounds.

But what Williamson and Carter share is the feeling they create for fans every time they leap, or every time one of them rises up with the ball in their hands headed toward the rim and the outcome is in question. What Zion and Vince share is emotion. That split-second of pure excitement the two world-class dunkers both produce whenever they challenge gravity is what makes them alike. As Carter exits the game, Williamson will carry the torch forward.