Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, Pelicans

Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, PelicansFuture Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, PelicansZion Williamson was born in Salisbury, North Carolina in 2000. His father Lateef Williamson played college football as a defensive lineman. His mother Sharonda Sampson was a sprinter at Livingstone College. Zion was named after the biblical locationMount Zion” near Jerusalem after his grandmother advised he be named after “something extra special”.

As a youth, Zion played soccer and American football. He set his sights on the basketball court at the age of five and never looked back. He began competing at an early age and joined an AAU team where he would face opponents four years older than him. In middle school, Zion played point guard and lost only three games in two years. He would attend Spartanburg Day School in Spartanburg, South Carolina to play basketball for the Griffins.

Between eighth and ninth grade, Zion grew from 5’9” to 6’3”. His growth spurt gave him the ability to dunk the basketball before the start of his freshman season. As a freshman, Williamson averaged 24.4 points, 9.4 boards, 2.8 assists, 3.3 steals and 3.0 blocks per game. He earned All-State and All-Region honors while leading the Griffins to a SCISA state championship game appearance.

Zion grew from 6’3” to 6’6” between his freshman and sophomore seasons. As a sophomore, he averaged 28.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 2.7 steals per game. He earned SCISA Region I-2A Player of the Year honors and led the Griffins to their first SCISA Region I-2A title in program history. In the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons he won the Under Armor Elite 24 showcase dunk contest in New York City.

Williamson would continue to improve as a prep prospect in his junior and senior seasons. He appeared on the cover of Slam magazine in June 2017 and was named MVP of the Adidas Nations camp after averaging 22.5 points and 7.2 rebounds through six games. Zion would play in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game where he scored eight points in 17 minutes before suffering a thumb injury. This caused him to miss the Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoops Summit that year. Regardless, he would go on to be named to the USA Today All-USA first team and Max Preps All-American second team. He also earned South Carolina Mr. Basketball honors and was a runner-up for Mr. Basketball USA.

By the end of his sophomore season in high school, Zion Williamson had already received offers from 16 NCAA Division I programs including Clemson, Florida and South Carolina. He would wait until his senior season to select a college and would eventually commit to Duke. The consensus five-star recruit expressed a strong desire to play for Mike Krzyzewski and felt he could learn a lot to succeed as a pro.

Zion Heads Off To College

Zion entered his freshman season at Duke alongside RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, the other top recruits in his class. He was named to the preseason watch lists for the Karl Malone Award, Naismith Trophy and John R. Wooden Award. In his first regular season game he scored 28 points on 11-of-13 shots in 23 minutes in a 118-84 win over Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, PelicansKentucky. Both he and RJ Barrett broke the Duke freshman debut scoring record set by Marvin Bagley III.

In the following game, Zion scored 27 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked six shots in a 94-72 win over Army. He became the second player in school history to record at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in a game. Zion would go on to be named ACC player and freshman of the week.

On February 20th, 2019, Williamson suffered a knee sprain after his foot ripped through his Nike shoe 36 seconds into a game versus North Carolina. He would not return to the game, and Duke would end up losing 88-72. As a result of the shoe malfunction, Nike’s stock would drop by $1.1 billion the following day. Zion would miss the final six games of Duke’s regular season and made his return in the ACC Tournament. He would pick up right where he left off and helped lead Duke to the ACC title while earning Tournament MVP honors.

For the 2019 NCAA Tournament, CBS devoted a camera specifically to Zion called the “Zion Cam”. Hype for Williamson was incredible during the tournament and Zion did not disappoint. He scored 25 points in Duke’s first round win over North Dakota State and put up 32 in their second-round defeat of UCF. In that game he became the first player in school history to record at least 25 points, 10 boards and four assists in an NCAA Tournament game. Duke’s 2019 NCCA Tournament run would come to an end after a 68-67 loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Despite the loss, Zion led all scorers with 24 points.

Zion Williamson finished his freshman season at Duke shooting 68% from the field which led the ACC, ranked second in the NCAA Division I and was the highest ever field goal percentage by a freshman. He joined Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis as the only freshman to collect 500 points, 50 steals and 50 blocks in a season. On April 15th, 2019 Zion declared his eligibility for the 2019 NBA draft.

On To The NBA

Heading into the draft, Zion was the consensus number one overall pick. After winning the 2019 Draft Lottery, it was a foregone conclusion that the New Orleans Pelicans would be selecting Williamson. The 6’6” forward showed incredible speed and leaping ability at Duke. The only knock on Zion heading into the draft was his weight.

Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, PelicansMany scouts felt he should lose 20-30 pounds to play in the NBA. However, some felt his weight helped him hold his own against larger players and would make it easier for him to play as a small-ball center. At Duke, Williamson showed tremendous in-game dunking abilities. His ball-handling and passing skills are also impressive, especially for his size. His incredibly strong hands allow him to rip the ball away from his opponents with ease. As a defender, his size allows him to body up players taller than him and his explosive athleticism makes him a reliable shot-blocker and rebounder.

As expected, Zion Williamson was selected with the first overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans at the 2019 NBA draft. He would make his debut at the 2019 Summer League in Las Vegas, but only played nine minutes before knocking knees with an opponent. Despite the early exit, Zion put on a show. He scored 11 points and had a sold-out crowd on their feet whenever he was on the floor. The hype continued to grow.

In the preseason, Zion tore his meniscus and his NBA debut was delayed until 2020. There was even some speculation he may sit out the entire year to avoid any further injury. Those concerns were alleviated when he made his official debut on January 22nd, 2020. In a 121-117 loss to the Spurs, Zion played 18 minutes and scored 22 points while grabbing seven rebounds. In the fourth quarter, he scored 17 consecutive points for the Pelicans in 3:08 minutes. The phenom had officially arrived.

Through seven games, Zion Williamson already leads his rookie peers in points per game with 19.6 and rebounds per game with 8.0. He is must see TV in the NBA and rightfully so. He plays hard and makes highlight reel plays on a nightly basis.

Zion On Cardboard

When it comes to cardboard, Zion’s market couldn’t be hotter. He’s the reason why Panini’s 2019-20 NBA trading card programs are setting records. His Silver Prizms from 2019-20 Prizm NBA are selling for $800+!

His likeness is also a target for rampant counterfeiting and can be found on fake cards using graphic assets from more than one trading card company. I do not advocate purchasing counterfeit Zion cards, but I do find them quite amusing and would happily add one to my collection (if I found it on the floor) to commemorate Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, PelicansZion’s rookie year on cardboard.

This leads to the question every NBA collector is asking themselves this season: Should I add Zion Williamson to my collection? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.

If you’re a Pelicans fan, you should try to at least get a Zion base rookie card into your collection. His base RC’s from 2019-20 Hoops can be found for around $10-$20. That’s expensive for a base RC but it won’t break the bank and Panini did a great job with the photo on that card.

If you’re an NBA fan, but not a die-hard Pelicans fan, there’s no reason to get in on the Zion market when it’s at a peak. The rookie card peak is high and will only be eclipsed once Zion is holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy over his head. Especially if you’re looking at his high-end cards. As bright as Zion’s future may be, what if he’s Blake Griffin 2.0? Griffin entered the league with a lot of hype, made plenty of highlight reel plays and had an impressive rookie campaign. His rookie cards were on fire!

Now, you can get pretty much any Blake Griffin rookie autograph you want for $500 or less. I don’t want to pour cold water on all the Zion hype, but it’s something to consider before you shell out $800+ for a card that may not hold that value in five years. All it takes is a devastating injury and the market could completely collapse. Zion leaps and falls down a lot on the NBA court. If you shell out $2k for a rookie patch autograph, you have to be holding your breath every time he takes a hard fall.

All that said, it sure is fun to rip open packs of cards, especially if you can pull a card that pays your rent! If you can afford it, buy a box and chase for Zion. A good rule to follow is keep one out of every three Zion rookies you find. Two are sold, one is kept. That way you have something to save for the future while making some money on the current hype. Win-win.

Collectors looking for cards featuring Zion Williamson in his Duke Blue Devils jersey will find his cards in Panini’s 2019 collegiate basketball programs including Contenders Draft Picks, Prizm Draft Picks and Flawless Collegiate. As the number one overall pick and face of this year’s rookie class, you can expect to find Zion Williamson wearing a Pelicans jersey in all of Panini’s 2019-20 NBA basketball programs including Hoops, Contenders, Crown Royale and many more to come.

Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, Pelicans – Stats (as of 2/5/2020)

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm Lg Pos G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% 2P 2PA 2P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
2019-20 19 NOP NBA PF 7 7 27.1 7.6 13.9 .546 0.6 1.3 .444 7.0 12.6 .557 .567 3.9 6.6 .587 3.6 4.4 8.0 2.1 0.6 0.3 2.6 2.0 19.6
Career NBA 7 7 27.1 7.6 13.9 .546 0.6 1.3 .444 7.0 12.6 .557 .567 3.9 6.6 .587 3.6 4.4 8.0 2.1 0.6 0.3 2.6 2.0 19.6
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2020.

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James Gale