Breaker of rims: Zion damages hoop with dunk

  • Staff Writer
  • Joined ESPN in 2018
  • Appears regularly on ESPN Chicago 1000

CHICAGO — United Center rims proved no match for rookie Zion Williamson on Friday night.

After catching a lob pass from Team USA teammate Trae Young in the Rising Stars Challenge, Williamson slammed down a two-handed jam that caused the rim to bend.

At halftime of the NBA All-Star Weekend event, United Center employees had to bring out a ladder and readjust the basket to its proper alignment. That’s the force of a 284-pound player who posted a 45-inch vertical leap in college.

After the game, Williamson said the first time he heard about damaging the rim was from his teammates; he said he didn’t hear a crack when he dunked.

“We went into the halftime and my teammates started telling me about it,” the New Orleans Pelicans rookie said. “I don’t know which dunk it was on, but I don’t think it was me.”

It wasn’t the only gawk-worthy Williamson dunk that brought the crowd to its feet Friday.

He wowed fans and left the backboard shaking with a jam off a between-the-legs pass from teammate Ja Morant. And Williamson said his favorite play of the game was when Morant threw him a lob from half court and he slammed it home.

The two rookie stars — who went Nos. 1-2 overall in last June’s NBA draft — also were AAU teammates in South Carolina.

“It was crazy, honestly,” Williamson said. “I keep thinking never in a million years would I have thought we’d have been in this game or been in the situation we’re in.”

Morant agreed.

“The one I threw from behind half court, to Zion,” the Memphis Grizzlies rookie said when asked what his favorite play with Williamson was. “Tough pass, I got it there. He dunked it, made me look good.”

Williamson finished with 14 points and seven rebounds in just under 20 minutes as Team USA defeated Team World 151-131.

Dunks were a theme throughout the night.

The teams finished with 41 combined slams (21 by USA, 20 by World). Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke led the way with six each.

But ultimately, this exhibition game was a chance for Williamson to wow fans with his backboard-bending buckets. And it was an opportunity for Chicago fans to see Luka Doncic pull up over Young from half court.

And because it was an exhibition, Rising Stars MVP Miles Bridges felt comfortable tweeting an illustration of a gamer going from slouching to sitting up and focused during halftime — something he said he’d never do in a real contest.

“You shouldn’t allow tweeting during [regular-season] games,” Bridges said. “The World Team was killing us, and we were like, ‘Let’s play for real.’ So I just tweeted that, just trying to be funny. It’s ironic that we came out and beat them by 20.”

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