By Rob Lep
Zion Williamson breaks his shoe. He sprains his right knee. The world ends. Pigs fly through the air.
TV and radio talking heads across the country have a field day telling a 18-year old superstar what he should do with his life.
The consensus is clear: Williamson cannot step on a college basketball court ever again. The chances of hurting himself are far too great. He’s the best prospect since LeBron James. No, check that. Wiliamson is actually made of glass. Everything goes out the window. The risk of injury is too high.
Do me a favor. Riddle me this. Maybe Zion likes college basketball? He enjoys playing for Coach K and Duke, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and ACC Champions. A storied program with a rich history. Winning, banners and championships.
He loves getting on that special court at Cameron Indoor Arena and throwing down dunks with his teammates, his best friends: RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and the rest of the boys.
For all of its flaws, College Basketball knows how to throw a postseason party. March Madness. Bracket time. America streams basketball games on their cellphones for two days instead of going to work. *What fricken channel is Tru-TV?* Basketball all day and night. There’s nothing like it.
I understand. You’re looking out for Zion. He might tear his ACL in the first 33 seconds of their opening round matchup versus a 16-seed they’ll blow off the floor by 50. What if he never plays again? His NBA dreams ruined forever.
Sure, lets play that game. Zion sits on his couch in North Carolina until the NBA Draft in June. He is safe. Nothing can happen to basketball’s most valuable young prospect now. “We win!”
Oh wait, just kidding. He’s walking up the stairs to his house. He slips on some ice and breaks his foot.
He gets out of the shower and hits his head on the pole holding up the shower curtain.
There’s a storm with strong winds. Someone forgot to close the window. It knocks his TV over and it shatters on his ankle.
Brain blast! We can wrap up Zion in bubble wrap. Give him a helmet to wear and put him in solitary confinement in a cushioned bed room. No forks or knives allowed either.
Want me to keep going? You can’t live life that way. Things happen. There are risks with everything and anything. Putting Williamson in a storage unit with a pillow doesn’t change that.
Williamson can make money every day for the rest of his life after June. College is different man. Once it’s over, you don’t get it back. No redos. It’s the ultimate reality television. Sorry Housewives and The Bachelor.
For better or worse, he gets the chance to experience it. 68 teams down to one. Standing with the trophy and the confetti coming down.
Duke could make it to the Final Four and win the National Championship. Hell, they could also lose in the first round. Throwback to 2014. Damn you Mercer!
Before Williamson gets his $100 million dollar shoe deal, goes No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft and becomes the face of an NBA franchise, the hope for an entire city and fan base, he’ll get to keep his last piece of innocence.
No worries about being a professional. Hiring an agent. Finding a place to live. Figuring out what to do with all those zeros in his bank account. News flash: for one, he can actually accept it. And spend it!
For a little longer, he’ll get to be just a college basketball player for Duke, trying to win a National Championship. Living his dream. Playing the game he loves. He’s been doing it since he was in elementary school. Cliche as hell. But there’s also something that just feels right about that.
It’s a pretty great place to be. Let him enjoy it. Plenty of time to worry about all the other stuff later.
Maybe I’m just selfish. Admittedly, I want to see Williamson playing in a Duke uniform for one more month.
I love March. I’m sure Zion does too.
Follow me on Twitter @RobLep1 and @STATSports1.