Skip to main content

Zion Williamson’s late-game actions against Phoenix Suns shouldn’t be justified

A new rivalry is brewing in the Western Conference between the Phoenix Suns and the New Orleans Pelicans. After Zion Williamson broke one of the unwritten rules on Friday night, the animosity between them has increased.

The two teams went up against each other twice in three nights, with the Pelicans winning both games. The first match of their two-game stint against each other was more controversial. New Orleans led the entire game and dominated Phoenix in almost every category.

Thanks to the impressive performance of their star forward, the hometown squad was up nine points as they neared the end of regulation. Former star guard for the city, Chris Paul, attempted a layup to try and decrease the gap but missed terribly. Larry Nance Jr. got the rebound, and there were around seven seconds left, and he hurled the ball toward Zion Williamson. The forward then performed a 360-windmill dunk to impress the crowd.

Most people would think that the move was incredible, and he did that only to boost the crowd’s energy. But there was no need to bring more vigor to the fans as their team had won the game by almost double-digits before he did the dunk. The situation also got heated between Paul and Pelicans’ bench guard Jose Alvarado afterward, but that’s a different story for another time.

Related: 2023 NBA mock draft: Detroit Pistons land the NBA’s next phenom in latest projections

Zion Williamson’s dunk was unnecessary

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

There have been instances where NBA players go the extra mile in rubbing their wins into their opponents’ faces. Williamson wanted to let the Suns know he hadn’t forgotten the last playoff series, where the Pelicans were home in six games.

The former number-one pick made it clear that it was “out of character” for him to do the dunk. However, he defended his actions by reminding everyone how Phoenix eliminated New Orleans in the first round of the 2021-22 playoffs.

No one thought that during the six games they played in the past post-season would light a fire of rivalry. Ever since the series ended, both squads have expressed distaste toward each other. 

The dunk by Williamson was incredibly impressive. Not many NBA players have the confidence to do such a move. But his decision to score instead of just dribbling out the clock sent a message that he probably doesn’t respect his opponent. There have been players in the past who have done the same and got themselves into trouble.

The most well-known incident was when Lance Stephenson, with the Indiana Pacers at the time, padded his stats when he went up for the layup. At that moment, the Pacers were already up big against the Toronto Raptors, 105-90, before going for the layup.

As he was returning, an angry duo of DeMar DeRozan and PJ Tucker. It was similar to what Williamson did last week, minus the dunk, as Indiana was hosting Toronto. Stephenson’s actions were a hot topic online, as fans expressed how they disliked his decision to add two more points to his name.

Just because Williamson is a star doesn’t mean what he did was fair. Younger players look up to him because of his incredible talent and impact on the hardwood. The one-time All-Star should set an example of how to play the game respectfully, even if that means controlling himself in similar situations against teams that rival his squad. The 22-year-old high-flyer’s gesture is inexcusable, and other players should take note of that before running up the score in a sure-win situation.

So far, the matchup is in New Orleans’ favor, as they have won twice against Phoenix. The Suns have a shot at redemption when they match up against the Pelicans on December 17.

Related: NBA playoff predictions: Bracket picks & 2023 Finals champion