Zion Williamson: Background

Here’s the Story:

Zion Williamson was born July 6, 2000 in Salisbury North Carolina—also the birthplace of former NBA player Bobby Jackson. On the advice of her mother, Zion’s mother Sharonda Sampson wanted to “make his name something special” and landed on Zion, after Mount Zion in Jerusalem. As a child he was a three-sport athlete, excelling in soccer and football as well as basketball. Williamson attended Spartanburg Day School, a small K-12 private school in South Carolina that has a reputation for sending 100 percent of its graduates to college. In middle school his mother was his basketball coach, and at 5’9” he was the point guard for his team. In between 8th and 9th grade he grew six inches, then another four inches over the following two years to reach his current 6’7”. Williamson focused in one just basketball for the remainder of his time in school.

Williamson was simply dominant as a high school player, leading Spartanburg Day to a loss in the state title game in his freshman season and three straight state championships the next three years. His athleticism and highlight slam dunks became a viral sensation, and they reached a fever pitch in January of 2017 when rapper Drake wore his jersey in an Instagram post. In a July AAU game between Williamson’s team and that of LaMelo Ball more than 80,000 fans filled a Las Vegas arena to the bursting, to the point that LeBron James was told not to show up for security concerns. Williamson made the Sportscenter Top 10 on ESPN for one of his dunks, built up to 1.7 million followers last summer and even received a scholarship from LSU to play tight end.

On the recruiting trail Williamson was courted by a number of schools, and early on Clemson was thought to be the frontrunner. Current Duke point guard Tre Jones started a group text with a handful of other top freshman; R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Williamson. When Reddish and Barrett committed to Duke (Jones committed years early to following his brother Tyus to Duke), Tre told Zion “Z, we love you, but if you don’t commit to Duke we’re kicking you out of the text chain.” Although the mayor of Columbia, South Carolina promised to name January 10, 2018 as “Zion Williamson Day” in Columbia were Zion to announce that day he was attending South Carolina, Williamson ended up at Duke, and along with the other three freshman make up the most star-studded freshman class in recent basketball history.