UNITE: Zion Williamson
The new Jordan Brand athlete talks about uniting through family.
The UNITE stories go deeper on Jordan Brand’s new film series celebrating the power of basketball. UNITE is a rallying cry for inspiring and empowering the next generation to never fly alone.
Minutes after he was selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Zion Williamson was almost at a loss for words. “I wouldn’t be here without my mom,” he said, while visibly grappling with the emotions of the moment. The 6’7” hooper showed a soft side that day, perhaps because his years of hard work, and his family’s sacrifices, were paying off in real time.
Though the game revolves around training, plays and wins, Zion, at age 19, understands the bigger picture — the power of basketball to simply bring people together. “When you’re out there on the court, you’re not worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what’s happened in the past,” he says. “You’re in that moment, enjoying it, and your body is free. You don’t even have to be good. You can be out there just to be out there. But when you’re on the court, it brings everyone together.”
From the moment he first touched a basketball, Zion has had his family there to give him strength and encouragement. His mother was his coach, his stepfather was his trainer and his little brother was his motivation. As a unit, they worked to grow his skills, confidence and work ethic, which earned him recruitment from one of the biggest colleges in the country.
When it was time to choose a university, Zion chose an environment where he hoped to be surrounded by the same kind of familial trust, support and ambition. It was a no-brainer to join the best coach in the country and other top recruits in Durham, North Carolina. “The brotherhood represents family, and I’m all about family,” he said at his announcement press conference.
Under the constant pressure of the national spotlight, Zion found solace in his new, close-knit community. “When you’re battling through those hard practices, where nothing seems to be going your way, and the coaches are on you, it’s those moments when everybody looks at each other and goes, ‘It’s going to happen now,’” he explains. “You just come together like, ‘No man, forget that, we’re good, we’re going to get through this.’”
For Zion, a teammate is just a brother in a uniform.
“It’s the small things that make the brotherhood,” he adds. “If we see somebody who’s not having the best day, we have the mindset of, ‘Listen, you’re having a bad day, but we’re all here to pick you up. Don’t feel bad about it. We all have our days. We’re humans, it happens.’”
Zion continues: “And it applies off the court, too. If you see somebody having a bad day, you just check up on them. The smallest check-up could be the biggest thing for that person.”
Learn more about UNITE here and look forward to more stories in the coming months.