In late July, Jordan Brand announced that Zion Williamson, widely considered one of the most promising professional basketball rookies in years, officially joined the family.

Nicknamed Zanos by his college teammates, Zion and his tremendous talent sent shockwaves beyond the collegiate realm. His behind-the-free-throw-line warm-up dunks and vicious, in-game windmills were the source of many wide eyes and dropped jaws. At 6’7” and 285 pounds, Zion is a forward who possesses the mentality and agility of a guard; he thrusts into the air and glides distances that seem impossible. His gravity-defying style is undoubtedly right at home in the house His Airness built.

As the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, 19-year-old Zion is notably the first person born in this millennium to be drafted into American professional basketball. Sports are practically in his DNA, as his mother, father and stepfather all played at high levels. At the age of nine, while growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Zion was already dreaming of making it to the pros, and his early playing days were an indication of the bright future ahead.

Now, Zion, who has spent the first half of the season rehabilitating, is ready for his next challenge of playing at the ultimate level of competition. Along this journey, he’ll have the support and backing of Jordan Brand.

We caught up with Zion to talk all things basketball, family and his highly anticipated professional debut. Here’s what he had to say.

Zion warming up before a recent game


What’s been the best part about joining Jordan Brand, so far?

So far? Well, being sponsored by a shoe company, if you asked me this three years or four years ago, I would’ve said, “I don’t think it’s going to happen.” Just to be able to say that I’m sponsored by Jordan Brand…it feels surreal.

You really took pride in the brotherhood at Duke. Jordan Brand prides itself on operating like a family more than a brand. Why is having that family atmosphere so important to you?

When you’re battling through those hard practices, when nothing seems to be going your way, and the coaches are on you, it’s those team moments — five-second moments — where everybody looks at each other, comes together and says, “We’re good, we’re gonna get through this.” It’s those small things that make it brotherhood. If we see somebody who’s not having the best day, then we have the mindset of, “We’re all here to pick you up. Don’t feel bad. We all have our days. We’re human. It happens.”

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 feel like the biggest thing for that person.

Zion and his family at Nike WHQ


What are your favorite Air Jordans?

My favorite Air Jordans are the Air Jordan 13 from He Got Game. It’s my favorite one of all time.

What’s your first memory of MJ? Was there a game, a highlight or one of your family members telling you about him?

My mom and my step dad told me about him. I remember wanting to know the history of the game. I was like, “Who should I go watch?” Watching and seeing all the stuff he did…nobody’s supposed to float like that or hang through the air! Someone would think they had a block shot, and then he’d move the shot to the other side and lay it in — dunking from the foul like it’s nothing. And then he was nasty on the defense, as well. When I saw that, I was like, “This is the dude, right here.”

Zion and his family at Nike WHQ


There’s a certain style and swagger that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How do you describe that?

You see the Jumpman? You already know it’s swag. No matter what it is. I mean, MJ retired in 2003, and you still see people lining up to buy his shoes that came out in 1986. That right there says enough. People are still lining up for the AJIs. There’s no other impact like that.

How competitive are you in the sneaker game?

I was always very into it, but I couldn’t really be competitive, because I wasn’t in a situation where I could get a lot of them. When I did get some, it was dope. When you wear them fresh out the box, people recognize that. When they’re Jordans, you don’t have to tell anybody that their fresh, they’ll already know.

Trash talking is a big part of the game. How do you approach that?

It’s part of the game. It’s the same as on social media, the comment section saying whatever they’re gonna say. But when you see that red line, it’s me and you. Ain’t nobody coming between us.

Zion dunking in NYC for the launch of the Air Jordan XXXIV