Zion, NBA’s Rising Stars awestruck by meeting former President Obama

CHICAGO – During a weekend chalk-full of meetings and events with famous musicians, chefs, Instagram stars and actors, only one has left No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson star-struck: meeting former United States President Barack Obama. Williamson said that meeting Obama has been one of his top life experiences thus far.

“This could be number one,” Williamson said. “I don’t want to say it is number one right now because the draft might be one, but this is definitely top two.”

Obama showed up for an exclusive NBA Cares event in between Rising Stars practices on Friday morning in Chicago. NBA players from both the USA and World Teams put on red T-shirts and assisted young students from local schools to pack 500 back packs full of colored pencils, markers, notebooks and other school supplies for other under-resourced students and teachers.

Players like RJ Barrett and Luka Doncic stood and stuffed the back packs while taking teasing jabs from children about who could dunk on who. Roughly 15 minutes into the event, Obama showed up. Most of the players and children had no idea he would be attending.

Slowly, Obama weaved his way around the room and introduced himself to every player, student, volunteer and coach. After Obama dapped up Charlotte’s Miles Bridges, Bridges turned towards reporters and admitted that he had intended to ask for a photo but got too nervous. The students said they felt similarly.

“I can’t believe I just met him, I almost cried,” one student exclaimed.

Eventually, he nestled in between Williamson and Trae Young and chatted with the two young players for 20 minutes while helping them add markers to the backpacks.

“It was crazy being able to stand next to him, talk to him,” Young said. “He basically knew everything about my season, my game. I was definitely asking him a lot of questions. He was just like a regular person – that’s what was crazy. You see all these things on TV and you don’t even realize. He was just talking to me like a regular person.”

It was the first time both Williamson and Young had met Obama. Young said that Obama told him that with him at point guard, the Hawks would eventually turn things around and have a winning season.

“It is special when you meet someone that is an icon like that,” Young said.

Williamson was dumbfounded when Obama started rattling off his recent stats in Pelicans games. Williamson said that the former president even recalled specific plays from his year playing for Duke.

“He said I played great and I kind of zoned out after that,” Williamson, still giddy. “That was all I needed to hear, to be honest.”

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