Zion Williamson is already the most popular NBA draftee of all time, at least if you go by merchandise sales.
According to Fanatics, via Lisa Fickenscher and Nicolas Vega of the New York Post, Williamson shattered the record by selling more New Orleans Pelicans jerseys and shirts than any draftees in history. In fact, in the five days after the draft, people purchased more Williamson shirts and jerseys than they did for the entire first-round draft class of the 2018 NBA Draft combined.
No. 3 pick RJ Barrett also broke the previous record after being drafted by the New York Knicks, but was outpaced by his former Duke teammate.
It’s pretty clear already that Williamson is being anointed the new king of New Orleans sports. Considering the level of hype that surrounded him all year and followed him into the NBA, this isn’t a huge shocker, but it’s still an indication of the stature Williamson enters the league with already.
- Zion Williamson
Drew Brees has been the King of New Orleans for more than a decade now, and it will soon be time for him to hand the crown over to someone else. That someone may not play for the Saints, however.
After Zion Williamson was drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, Brees gifted him an autographed jersey with an awesome message on it. The 40-year-old quarterback told told Williamson he is “passing the torch” to him.
The message from Drew?
“To Zion – Passing the torch to you! Who dat!” https://t.co/s6gMKtzJel
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 23, 2019
Williamson will turn 19 in a few weeks, which means he was only 9 when Brees led the Saints to their first championship in franchise history. It must be a surreal feeling for him to have a future Hall of Famer say something like that to him.
Brees isn’t the only admirer of Williamson that the Saints have, either. Sean Payton made it clear how he feels about Zion as soon as the Pelicans earned the top pick in the draft. The hype surrounding Williamson is very, very real.
The New Orleans Pelicans nabbed Zion Williamson first overall in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, which led to a lot of wider attention from the sports world. Some of that attention came from a somewhat unlikely source.
As Williamson is a North Carolina native, the Carolina Panthers’ Twitter account saw fit to wish Williamson good luck after the Pelicans drafted him. The Pelicans’ Twitter account, however, was quick to ask why the NFL team hadn’t bothered congratulating any of the Charlotte Hornets’ draftees.
ya know you guys have an NBA team in your city? They had a strong draft last night too, and yet no tweet to them? https://t.co/gca9hi3pBa
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) June 21, 2019
The New Orleans Saints, who in addition to sharing a city with the Pelicans are also the Panthers’ division rivals, wasted no time getting in on the fun.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) June 21, 2019
Is it a bit excessive considering Williamson is from North Carolina? Maybe. But it’s fun, makes for some harmless Twitter drama, and increases the visibility of the accounts involved, which is the entire point.
Zion Williamson has more hype surrounding him than any top overall draft pick since LeBron James, and his game has also been frequently compared to LeBron’s. It only makes sense, then, for Williamson to seek advice from the man who is supposed to eventually pass him the NBA torch.
LeBron has offered to share some wisdom with Williamson, and the 18-year-old said after he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night that he is very open to listening. He also shared some specific questions he might ask LeBron.
LeBron James says he has advice for Zion Williamson. Zion said he'll take Bron up on his offer: "I probably will hit him up. Hopefully he responds to me. My questions would probably be what do I have to do to maintain, what do I have to do to just try to make my way to the top."
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 21, 2019
In addition to having natural-born talent, James is one of the hardest workers in the history of the NBA. Williamson could do a lot worse than trying to model his game and work ethic after LeBron’s.
The way Williamson reacted after being drafted on Thursday appears to prove he has remained humble despite all the hype, and that should only help his career.
The top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft went as expected, but the drama came in the post-selection interviews with ESPN’s Maria Taylor. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett all cried when talking about what their parents meant to them and their success.
Here is Zion Williamson getting emotional upon becoming the top pick in the draft and thinking of the sacrifices his mother made for him.
"I wouldn't be here without my mom. She did everything for me."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 20, 2019
Next up after the New Orleans Pelicans took Williamson No. 1 was the Memphis Grizzlies, who picked Ja Morant second. Morant got emotional thinking about all the work his father put in with him.
— Maria Taylor (@MariaTaylor) June 21, 2019
And the third pick was RJ Barrett by the New York Knicks. He cried on the shoulder of his father, Rowan Barrett.
RJ Barrett gets emotional while listening to his dad talk about him "I'm proud of you son" pic.twitter.com/2L2qRMheXD
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 20, 2019
Seeing the emotion from the players and how much their parents meant to their success was endearing. Getting drafted — especially at the top of the NBA Draft — is the realization of dreams for many of these players.
Zion Williamson and everyone else who follow basketball have known for a very long time that he would be the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but that didn’t make the moment any less special for the former Duke star.
Williamson was interviewed by ESPN after the New Orleans Pelicans officially selected him with the No. 1 pick, and the 18-year-old was overcome with emotion. He had to pause several times to fight back tears.
Zion Williamson breaking into sobs after being selected No. 1 overall. pic.twitter.com/MjsSw2RpFN
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) June 20, 2019
Williamson said being drafted No. 1 overall is something he has been dreaming of since he was 5 years old, so you can understand the reaction. Even if it has been a foregone conclusion that he would be the top pick, knowing it’s coming and actually hearing the commissioner announce your name are two entirely different things.
The top of the 2019 NBA Draft appears to be finalized hours before the draft takes place.
Zion Williamson has long been expected to go No. 1 overall, while the Grizzlies have been tied to Ja Morant ever since winning the No. 2 pick in the lottery. RJ Barrett has also been expected to be picked by the Knicks at No. 3.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday that those picks are already set, meaning the mystery won’t begin until the New Orleans Pelicans pick at No. 4.
Top three picks in 2019 NBA draft are set, per sources:
1. Zion Williamson, Pelicans
2. Ja Morant, Grizzlies
3. RJ Barrett, Knicks
Pelicans hold cards at No. 4.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 20, 2019
Players like Darius Garland, Coby White, and De’Andre Hunter have been mentioned as potential picks at No. 4. New Orleans also has been interested in trading that pick.
The real fun will begin with that fourth pick.