August 12, 2022

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New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson agreed to a maximum contract extension last week with one goal in mind – to prove he can overcome all the obstacles in his way and win.

Williamson, one of the hottest young basketball players out of college in recent memory, agreed to the deal worth around $193 million. He discussed his decision to sign the extension at a press conference on Wednesday.

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson shakes hands with New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green with New Orleans Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin standing in the background after speaking to the media of the signing of his contract extension at Dryades YMCA in New Orleans, Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
(Max Becherer/The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)

“The last few months have been a rollercoaster of emotions. The world just raced with stories, and so when my family went out in public, they got harassed by people asking why we didn’t like New Orleans. or why we don’t want to be here, when that’s not the case at all,” he said.

“I couldn’t play because my foot was broken. Every time I check my phone it’s always something negative. Even when you try to make the situation positive, it was very difficult.”

Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, was supposed to come to the Pelicans to change the organization for the better. However, injuries hampered his early career. He said he wanted to prove he was a “winner” and wanted to do it with his teammates in New Orleans.

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FILE - New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson watches a shootout before Game 6 of the NBA basketball first round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns on April 29, 2022 at the New Orleans.

FILE – New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson watches a shootout before Game 6 of the NBA basketball first round playoff series against the Phoenix Suns on April 29, 2022 at the New Orleans.
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

“I want to prove that I’m a winner. It’s as simple as that. I want to win with the coach. I want to win with my teammates. The ultimate goal is to win a championship,” he said. “I feel like that’s what we’re all looking for. Like [Pelicans GM David Griffin] said, we are hungry. You all saw last year what the team did. I’m just happy to add to that.”

He thanked the Pelicans organization for sticking with him and believing in him.

“Thank you all for really sticking with me last year. It was a tough year, and then for the Pelicans to come and give this birthday present, I’m not going to let them down. I’m not going to let them down town, I’m not going to let my family down, and most importantly, I’m not going to let myself down,” he said.

Williamson played just 85 games in three seasons, but when healthy he proved everything he could bring to the table. He was an All-Star in his second season averaging 27 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

Seemingly healthy, Williamson could be a big factor in the development of young pelicans in the future.

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball downfield during the fourth quarter of an NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at Smoothie King Center on May 04, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana .

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball downfield during the fourth quarter of an NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at Smoothie King Center on May 04, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana .
(Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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New Orleans made the playoffs after earning the eighth seed in the play-in tournament. Although the team lost to the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans took two games from them. When adding Williamson to a roster with CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas and Herb Jones, the team may be competing for something more than a sixth seed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.