500 days of frustration end for Zion Williamson and the Pelicans

Head coach Willie Green of the New Orleans Pelicans greets Zion Williamson #1 against the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Head coach Willie Green of the New Orleans Pelicans greets Zion Williamson #1 against the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

After 517 days Pelicans star Zion Williamson finally stepped back onto an NBA court on Tuesday in Chicago, scoring thirteen points in fifteen minutes. It’s been a troubled road for the 22-year-old forward to get back to playing the game he loves after a fractured foot on the 27th of September last year caused him to miss all of last season as his teammates powered the franchise to the playoffs under first-year head coach Willie Green.

New Orleans Pelicans: A brief history of Zion Williamson

While he was in college Zion attracted a lot of attention from fans and media alike averaging over his college career 22.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists the attention was well and truly warranted. After leading Duke to an ACC tournament title, he was projected first overall for the upcoming 2021 NBA draft after being one of college basketball’s biggest-ever stars. The Pelicans attained the number one pick through the draft lottery. Claiming the pick with a six percent chance ahead of Memphis who selected a certain Ja Morant second overall.

Zion’s debut came on July 5th, 2019 as the Pelicans took on RJ Barrett and the New York Knicks during summer league. Zion played nine minutes total and his highlight was ripping the ball away from New York power forward Knox and launching off the dribble and slamming it home. After the play fans were delirious when Zion flexed his muscles in celebration. This play was his announcement to the NBA. Zion only played nine minutes due to a bruised knee that he sustained during the game, which unfortunately for him and the Pelicans was the start of a worrying trend of injuries that would cause to this day, Zion to only play 85 games over three years in the league.

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The worst of his injuries came on the 27th of September 2021 after he fractured his foot during the offseason. The original timeline of the fracture was to have Zion back before the beginning of the regular season. During a press conference at Pelicans media day before the start of the regular season, Zion was asked by a reporter “Do you expect to be back before the start of the regular season”. Zion responded quickly to the question “Yes Sir, I expect to be back”. This unfortunately for Pelicans fans and NBA fans alike turned out not to be the case.

Zion would end up missing the start of the season with the foot injury, he wasn’t even running by the start of the season never mind balling out with his teammates as expected

New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson /

Zion had surgery on the foot and at one stage it was feared he would have to have a second surgery to repair the injury. Throughout the season the Pelicans’ medical team offered several injury reports on Zion. At one stage during the season fans were sent into overdrive as a video surfaced of Zion performing a between-the-legs dunk on a training court on March 23rd of this year. Fans speculated whether the superstar would return at the back end of last season. This proved not to be the case. Zion sat out the end of the regular season and the whole playoff run which saw the Pelicans lose 4-2 to the top seeded Phoenix Suns.  Zion worked tirelessly with the Pelicans’ medical staff during the year to get back for the playoffs but it wasn’t to be. He was pictured doing dunking, shooting, and athletic training testing out the fracture after the postseason.

All Zion’s hard work paid off as he returned against Chicago on Tuesday, playing 15 minutes and recording  13 points off 60 percent shooting with one assist, four rebounds and a steal. Hopefully for both him and the Pelicans he can keep this up for the regular season and propel the Pels into the automatic playoff spots for next season.

It’s been a media drama from the beginning but Zion Williamson is reminding people why there has always been so much hype.

Next. A PelicanDebrief interview with Zion's personal chef. dark