Everyone knew Zion had wild athleticism, shocking speed and agility for a player of his size and stature. Despite all the hype and expectations, Williamson still managed to surprise a lot of people with his defensive engagement and playmaking ability. Realistically, the kid could just dunk on offense and rest on defense, but he doesn't. Zion has genuine love and respect for the game.
We often take that kind of character for granted, someone who due to talent and offensive ability could get away with less, but doesn't. Try to remember how much hype Wiggins got before coming to the league, and with all that talent and physical gifts, his career has been deeply underwhelming so far. No amount of talent can compensate for lack of effort and respect for the game.
The AAU circuit and a lot of college programs may convince players they are good enough - but other experiences let them know they are not. Sam Mitchell was coaching at Adidas Nations and let his team hear it even though they won.
“They kicked our ass on the glass; they outworked us - we were lucky to win this game. I keep telling you, the NBA don’t give a fu** about your ranking. What that do for me?? If you don't come out there and do sh**, you walk in the gym. 'Well I was the no.1 player.' AND? I wasn’t ranked. You know how many no.1 motherfu**** I sent home in training camp, every year for 14 fuc**** years? Because they came into the gym and they thought they were entitled to something.
If anyone can speak on behalf of the unranked guy, it's Sam Michell. Drafted 54th in the '85 Draft by the Rockets, Mitchell didn't make the cut. He then spent four years playing in different leagues in the US and overseas to get his chance with the Wolves in '89 finally. Never near the top for his talent, Michell outworked many guys to have a 13-year long career in the NBA as a player.
“Everybody's good. Everybody's hungry. The guys that aren't ranked, they're more hungry. They want what you all got.”
That's precisely why the greatest ones are so special, they are the most talented people in the league, and they turn out to be the hungriest. Zion has all the tools, and what we've seen so far seems to understand this part as well. The most challenging part is ahead of him - staying hungry (and, knock on wood, healthy) for the next 15-20 years.