Back in 2019, Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were poised to take the NBA by storm. Sitting atop a stacked draft class, it seemed as though it was only a matter of time before the two took the league by storm. With Williamson going first to the New Orleans Pelicans and Morant second to the Memphis Grizzlies, the future of the NBA was upon us.
Since then, the pair have competed against one another several times. Friday night in Memphis, Grizzlies, who are seventh in the Western Conference, will host the Pelicans, who are tied for second in the West.
But long before the two men were battling against one another on the court, they were actually competing for the same team. In 2018, before Morant ascended the draft board of many top scouts, he and Williamson played on the same AAU team.
For those unfamiliar, Amateur Athletic Union competitions are where the majority of young players get their start. AAU tournaments allow young players the opportunity to compete on a local and regional level outside of their school teams. This results in players like Morant and Williamson, who lived over an hour apart, competing for the same team.
It was there that Williamson was propelled into the spotlight. The way Ja Morant's father, Tee Morant, recalled in an interview with CBS several years ago, it was on their AAU team that Zion's athleticism started to shine:
"I guess the rest of the athleticism had to kick in, but he was catching alley-oops from Ja then. I think the game he really opened a lot of people's eyes, one kid went up for a layup and he tried to put it high off the glass, and Zion looked like he went to the top of the square and pinned it. It was a big tournament. Everyone went crazy, and that went viral."
Below you can see some highlights from the two in action back with the South Carolina Hornets.
Ja Morant and Zion Williamson on Team USA
After Ja Morant & Zion Williamson were drafted first and second in 2019, the pair wound up sharing the floor as teammates once again in the NBA. During All-Star week in 2020, the two men joined Team USA to take on Team World. After a huge run in the second half, the team defeated Team World 151-131.
It gave NBA fans a glimpse into what could have been had the pair ended up on the same team. According to a report several weeks ago, the Pelicans actually offered the Memphis Grizzlies several picks. Unfortunately for the franchise, they weren't able to unite the pair.
When the two men square off Friday night, the eyes of the world will be watching as two of the most exciting prospects in the league go head-to-head.