Zion Williamson signed a five-year contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, the maximum allowed under the league’s “designated rookie-wide player extension” provision; depending on the variables built into the contract, it could net him between $193 million and $231 million. If you think it might be a risky investment for the Pelicans in a phenomenally cubic young player who missed his entire third pro season with foot issues and played a grand total of 85 (incredibly productive!) over his NBA career to date, well, that’s reasonable, if maybe a little sadly GM-brained for my tastes. If you’re thinking, “Well, the Pelicans would definitely get a lot more value out of this contract if Zion traded some of the sick dunks that made him such a famous, cool basketball star in exchange for some sane layups!” “So I’m sorry to inform you that you’re the biggest asshole that ever lived.
Or, well, you’re tied with the doofus that hit Zion with this vaguely interrogative prompt to the official presser after the contract was signed Wednesday night:
Here’s a transcript, in case you can’t play videos wherever you are:
So you talk about longevity technically a dunk and a layup are worth the same amount of points but we know you love the dunk and the energy it can bring I mean just curious if you can use that as an example of how you think about longevity.
Holy fumes. What a spirit. I’ve backed off so far that I now wear my own sternum as a scarf. The gist of this thing, which I’ll call a question for simplicity from now on, is, Now that you’re serious about being a real NBA player, isn’t it time to stop with all that slam-dunking nonsense and play more like Kelly Olynyk? I like to imagine what would have happened if Zion had responded to that with something like, “Well, yeah, actually, I’ve given up all dunks from now on, in favor of two-lay-ups. Specifically, I like to imagine Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon and executive vice-president David Griffin, sitting to Zion’s right on the dais, going green and haunted as he said. ain’t what everybody wants! The Pelicans don’t sell Williamson tickets or jerseys from fucking fingers! They don’t land coveted national TV show slots on the promise that a newly minted Zion Williamson sober will spend the rest of his career imitating Christian Laettner!
Would this compromise be even safer? I think the assumption here is that because layers are more conservative, less stylish, less cool, they must also be healthier. This is vegetable reasoning. He is deeply and profoundly white. But does it hold? Personally, I can’t think of very many notable examples of players getting hurt while throwing mega-dunks. Intuitively, I might even assume that diving is safer than putting the ball down, when it comes to the kind of knee and lower leg injuries that plagued Williamson’s early career, as both involve jump, but only the dive involves the ability to briefly grab the rim to ensure a safe landing. More importantly, the waistband of my pants mysteriously migrated two feet up my torso while I was typing that paragraph, and I’m suddenly carrying glasses of Coke.
Personally, I really appreciate the nervous quiver in the voice of the interlocutor, as if they appreciate that they are making the stupidest argument possible in the English language – damn it, imagine saying out loud “technically a dunk and a layup are worth the same number of points, “I think my mouth would drop – and muster his resolve to see it through to its dark and embarrassing end. Give credit to this absolute lord of the dorks! Dumping that pocket-protector contribution at a highly visible NBA press conference, he managed to elicit a spirited, fun, and animated response from Williamson…
I’m a competitor, so when I’m on the court, I don’t think about, ‘Let me put that ball down, hopefully that will last me, my career will last longer.’ No. I’m thinking of putting this person through the rim. So as far as I’m concerned, it will always happen. It will continue to happen. There are no – no matter what they are [gesturing at Pelicans honchos sitting beside him] talk, I’m still soaking. Come on, man.
– even if it was equivalent to That’s the cheesiest shit I ever heard in my life and included both Zion and Pelicans coach Willie Green laughing at the questioner, and racking up doses of that face too:
Giving up one’s dignity to provoke this kind of reaction in a player is the highest tradition of journalistic integrity. What I’m absolutely horrified about just now is also kind of like making an accusation. Oh my God.