To some, it may seem as if Zion Williamson sprouted from the red clay of South Carolina like a palmetto tree. His ascent occurred so rapidly that people can be forgiven for believing he simply materialized from that balmy Southern air, wowed us with his dunking abilities and became a professional All-Star. Fortunately, the Jordan Zion’s 1 “Marion” colorway tells the rest of the story. It encapsulates who Zion is, where he came from and what it required for him to get here. 

The “Marion” colorway is a nod to the small city where Zion attended middle school. In his words, it’s the place where he became “an ultimate competitor.” The shoe references the beauty and persistence of the lotus flower, reflected in the way Zion’s dreams blossomed back in those tough yet formative days. 

Long before he was an NBA power forward combining explosive physicality with polished fundamentals, Zion already had big dreams. When he was four years old, his step-father and lifelong coach, Lee “Coach” Anderson, explained the legacy of MJ and the cyclic nature of basketball greatness. “Every 10 years or so, God allows us to witness a special talent,” Lee told Zion. “Somebody has to take that spot next. Why not you?” By the time Zion was nine, “Coach” was having prophetic dreams of draft night; he imagined the league’s commissioner calling Zion’s name first overall. Of course, in June of 2019, that dream came true.

Yet Zion describes another family member as his “toughest coach” — his mother, Sharonda Sampson. She instilled the importance of hard work in Zion, from the hardwood to the middle school classroom. “People feel that if you run fast and jump high, you can dunk, and you can play,” Sharonda says. “Not for us. We wanted to teach Zion the game of basketball. Everybody loves to see the highlights, but we wanted him to be a thinker on the floor — a leader.”

It’s easy to marvel at Zion’s talent: the twisting, 360-degree dunks, the gravity-refuting reverses and the daunting blocks. And we should. But as the “Marion” colorway of the Jordan Zion 1 proves, Zion’s “overnight” success was actually years in the making.

The Jordan Zion 1 “Marion” releases May 26, 2021.

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