Duke phenom Zion Williamson is already the stuff of tall tales. One more mythic feat entered the record Tuesday during the Blue Devils’ comeback win over Louisville. While fighting Jordan Nwora for possession, Williamson’s fingertips appeared to be ... denting the basketball.
Follow the seam, and note how it gets all wiggly under his left hand. Grab a ball, inflate it to NCAA specs so that it bounces between 49 to 54 inches when dropped from six feet, and see if you can do that. Zion altered the equator of the basketball.
Gail Kamenish, who took these shots, has been photographing basketball for 25 years. Photos tend to capture very surreal slices of time, and Kamenish has taken a lot of them, so I asked her if she’d ever seen fingers depress the surface of the basketball in this way. While she was aware of the funny way basketballs deform when they strike the court mid-dribble, she hadn’t seen anything quite like this. Williamson’s feat was new to her, too.
“I tweet during timeouts, so I was kinda going through the stuff on the camera and looking, and I just zoomed in to see how sharp it was, because there was good action in the frame,” Kamenish said. “And I was like, ‘Oh god, look at that.’ And I showed it to the guy next to me, a seasoned basketball player back in his day, he’s like, ‘Oh god, look at that.’”