Zion Williamson’s affinity for New York City is not exactly something new. Williamson had reportedly been rooting for the New York Knicks to win the lottery when he was entering the 2019 NBA Draft only to see the New Orleans Pelicans make a shocking leap to get the No. 1 overall pick. As the Pelicans faced the Knicks on Sunday, Williamson again mentioned how much he loves playing in New York, calling it his favorite place to play outside of New Orleans.
Williamson is having a breakout second season in the NBA, and he continued his terrific year by finishing with 34 points, nine rebounds, and five assists as the Pelicans fell to the Knicks in overtime. When asked about what it was like to play in New York after the game, Williamson put a big smile on his face and called the city the ‘mecca of basketball.’
Here’s the full quote from Williamson:
I’m glad you asked that actually. New York is the mecca of basketball. I love playing here. I played here in college, and this is my first time playing here in the pros. This atmosphere, whether they’re cheering for you, whether they’re booing for you, it’s amazing. Honestly, I think outside of New Orleans obviously, I think this might be my favorite place to play, outside of New Orleans. I can’t lie to you.
While Knicks fans were heartbroken to see the team land the No. 3 pick in the 2019 lottery, Williamson might have been just as disappointed. He was reportedly ‘rooting’ for the Knicks to land the No. 1 pick so he could start his career in New York, according to reporter Marc Spears.
Zion Williamson was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after Pelicans were announced the winner of the draft lottery. Source said the former Duke star was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) May 15, 2019
Williamson played in Madison Square Garden once in college when his Duke Blue Devils knocked off Texas Tech in a Dec. non-conference game. After that game, Williamson said he would love to play for the Knicks, but noted that he didn’t really care where he ended up in the NBA.
“If they draft me, I would love to play for the Knicks,” Williamson said. “I don’t really care where I go. Just the experience of being in the NBA, whoever wants me and whoever sees the most in me, that’s where I want to be.”
“It would probably be incredible — this is the Garden,” Williamson said when asked about playing at MSG full-time. “A lot of greats have come through here. My favorite great to come through here was Bernard King. My stepdad talked about him a lot, how he just put the ball in the basket. … I had to go watch his highlights. … He was incredible how he did it.”
Williamson still has two years left on his rookie contract with the Pelicans. He then would have two options: sign a max extension with New Orleans for up to five years, or play on the qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent after his fifth pro season. Hardly anyone turns down a max extension coming off their rookie contract, because it’s the first time players can get a mega deal in the NBA, and it takes away any injury risk before cashing in. Williamson has battled injury problems throughout his short career, but has played 51 of the Pelicans’ 57 games this year.
It’s way too soon to start wondering about Williamson’s future in New Orleans, but let the record show he didn’t hesitate to talk about how much he loves playing in New York.