Zion’s Dunk Dynasty
Duke freshman Zion Williamson is among the most explosive dunkers the game of basketball has ever seen. We cataloged the best and most impactful of his 52 dunks during a scintillating season in Durham.
Sometimes they came late in the game. Sometimes they came early but meaningfully changed Duke's chance to prevail. This group of Zion dunks are to be relished not just for their beauty but also for the way the two memorable points boosted the Blue Devils' win probability.
Dec. 20 vs. Texas Tech: Texas Tech had the lead and saw its win probability rise as high as 58.6 percent ... before this Zion dunk. After the flush -- which came off a Tre Jones steal -- Duke upped its chance to win by nearly 7 percent.
Dec. 20 vs. Texas Tech: Turns out the Red Raiders had the "honor" of witnessing two tide-turning Zion dunks in this game. Before this first-half slam, a Duke win was a 50-50 proposition. Afterward, the Blue Devils' chances took a turn north.
Jan. 19 vs. Virginia: Duke's 72-70 win over the Cavaliers was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout. As the clock ticked below five minutes, this emphatic Zion dunk raised Duke's win probability to 66.4 percent.
Jan. 26 vs. Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech came to Durham as an underdog but still owned the lead early in the second half. This dunk -- one of multiple big ones over the final 20 minutes -- helped turn the tide Duke's way.
Jan. 26 vs. Georgia Tech: Even Zion's missed dunks are a thing of beauty. This slam -- which saw Williamson go through Georgia Tech's James Banks -- was worth the same two points and helped Duke prevent the upset attempt.
No man is an island -- even a man with the physical dimensions and otherworldly skill of Zion Williamson. Twenty-one Zion dunks were unassisted, but others came off expertly timed passes from teammates. So let's give it up for the messengers of Williamson's top alley-oops ... as well as the recipient.
Nov. 11 vs. Army: We're sure Zion didn't mean to disrespect Coach K's alma mater with this flush against Army, which came off an RJ Barrett fast-break lob (and started with a Zion steal).
Nov. 14 vs. Eastern Michigan: "This is like stuff that happens at Cape Canaveral," exclaimed the play-by-play man who witnessed this feat, the first (but not last) time Zion would be compared to a rocket.
Nov. 27 vs. Indiana: Tre Jones is no dummy. The Duke point guard established himself early as a freshman by always recognizing where No. 1 was on the break, as witnessed on this oop vs. Indiana.
Jan. 26 vs. Georgia Tech: The dunk here is sensational, but you'll also note the moment when Zion gestures for the ball: This is the exact instant when Georgia Tech realized that zone might not work.
Feb. 2 vs. St. John's: "Look out!" Those were the words uttered by ESPN's Bob Wischusen just as Tre Jones started this lob to a left-side-breaking Zion. We did look out ... and have yet to look away.
Coast to Coast
A 6-foot-7, 285-pound man isn't supposed to do this. If ever we were tempted to think of Zion Williamson as a one-man team, it was because of these dunks, in which the Wooden Award front-runner took it nearly the length of the floor before his opponents even had time to set up their defense.
Dec. 5 vs. Hartford: "You're probably going to need to make a stronger pass" is probably what Hartford's Max Twyman was told as his team watched the film of this nifty Zion steal-and-score.
Jan. 22 vs. Pittsburgh: A notable piece of Duke-on-Duke crime here, as this Zion dunk (one of multiple slams he had in this game) helped take down ex-Duke coach and player Jeff Capel, now at Pitt.
Feb. 2 vs. St. John's: Take it away, Dickie V: "They stripped him, man! Took that ball right away! And Zion, up to the mountaintops, the elevator man! Up, up and away!" Indeed, Mr. Vitale.
Feb. 2 vs. St. John's: If you're a St. John's fan, dunks like this one are hard to watch. If you're a St. John's fan who is also a New York Knicks fan, maybe those thoughts go from "waking nightmare" to "NBA dream"?
Feb. 9 vs. Virginia: Do you enjoy power? If so, watch what happens to the basketball after this mighty Zion slam at Virginia. The thing looks like it could nearly hit the John Paul Jones Arena roof on the bounce.
The box score will reflect an offensive rebound and two points for Zion Williamson on these plays. Sometimes the box score doesn't do basketball justice. These second-chance dunks came off missed shots -- which led to far more entertaining made shots by a freshman marvel.
Nov. 6 vs. Kentucky: Nov. 6, 2018, was the day that most of the world was introduced to the talents of Zion Williamson. It was plays like this in a season-opening, 34-point rout of Kentucky that got our attention.
Nov. 21 vs. Gonzaga: Should Duke and Gonzaga have a rematch of their 89-87 thriller in March (we can dream), we can bet the Zags (who won that meeting) would want to account for Zion better on plays like this one.
Jan. 5 vs. Clemson: There have been hundreds of college basketball games this season, and every one had a first made basket. We say this was the best first basket in any game all season. Who says no?
Jan. 22 vs. Pittsburgh: ESPN's LaPhonso Ellis: "No one really gets a body on Zion Williamson. You almost have to face-guard him because if he gets a full head of steam going to the basket, you have no shot."
Feb. 2 vs. St. John's: We all know that Zion dunks, but this putback highlight is a good time to remind you that he also rebounds. Zion has 10 double-doubles on the season, and his 8.8 boards per game ranks third in the ACC.