Zion Williamson is settling perfectly into New Orleans, but still honors his Spartanburg roots

Liz Roscher
Ceaux Young created murals on adjacent basketball courts at Stewart Park in Spartanburg, SC celebrating Zion Williamson's roots at the school and his rise to the NBA. (Jamal Barnes/Mountain Dew)
Ceaux Young created murals on adjacent basketball courts at Stewart Park in Spartanburg, SC celebrating Zion Williamson's roots at the school and his rise to the NBA. (Jamal Barnes/Mountain Dew)

Zion Williamson’s NBA debut will have to wait at least a few weeks while he recovers from a knee injury. But while his return to the court is on hold, Williamson’s star status is already on full launch.

The No. 1 overall draft pick in June has already signed massive endorsements, is making TV appearances and has developed partnerships with products like Mountain Dew.

It also led him to the city of New Orleans. In an interview with Yahoo Sports, Williamson raved about his new home base. He couldn’t pinpoint one thing he loved because he loves it all: the food, the sights and the people. What he loves the most, though, is the feeling he gets from just being there.

“I’ve been learning the city and getting to know the city,” Williamson said. “There are so many great spots, every time I go somewhere new, it’s different. But every place I go to, I feel a sense of love and community. It’s unbelievable, honestly. You hear about it, but to actually experience and be a part of it, it’s just two different feelings. It says a lot about the city of New Orleans. It says that they’re one, that they’re a community.”

Williamson loves his new home but he won’t ever forget about where he started: Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina. When his new partner, Mountain Dew, suggested a way to meld his roots, his future, and his personality into one project, he jumped at the chance. That’s how murals on two refurbished courts at Stewart Park in Spartanburg came about.

“The mural came together after my partnership with Mountain Dew, and it came together because Mountain Dew likes to dive into the lifestyle within hoops,” Williamson told Yahoo Sports. “They know that I like superheroes, comics, anime, cartoons, stuff like that. They know that my name was made in Spartanburg, that’s where the world was introduced to me. And also, they took another part of me being new to New Orleans, and they got an artist from New Orleans, Ceaux Young. So, the court in Spartanburg, the artist from New Orleans, and my liking of superheroes, cartoons, anime and all that stuff, brought it all together and the mural was created.”

With the Pelicans’ season set to officially get underway in five days, the next chapter of Williamson’s life is about to start for real. He’s spent some time exploring New Orleans, but in his free time he’s been buckling down and keeping things simple: hanging out with his teammates and family, hitting the weight room, and listening to a lot of J. Cole. He takes time for himself, but as a rookie he wants to be as team focused as possible, telling Yahoo Sports, “To win a championship and have an impact on the team, that would be my dream rookie season.”

In fact, he’s so team focused that he doesn’t even want to think about how the Pelicans stack up against other teams like the Los Angeles Clippers or Houston Rockets.

“I don’t really look at it like that,” Williamson said. “I can’t even look that far into it right now, if I’m being honest. We have a new team, we have a lot of young players, so right now I think we’re still finding ourselves and trying to find our potential and learning how to work as one.”

He did reveal one personal goal he has, though.

“I was always taught that team success would lead to individual success, but I am trying to win Rookie of the Year. But that’s not my main goal. My main goal is to help the Pelicans win.”

With the Pelicans kicking off their season Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors, fans will have to wait a little longer to watch him start his Rookie of the Year campaign. But don’t worry, Zion is coming.

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