The former Duke player was out for the previous part of the season with a right knee injury.
"I want him to be excited, and he is excited," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said to Yahoo Sports ahead of Zion's debut. "This is this kid’s lifelong dream since he was 4 years old. Everybody wants to be an NBA guy. And to be an NBA guy and be the first pick, it’s mind-boggling. It really is. The thing I said to him, you’ve done it, you’re there. Enjoy it. Enjoy the moment, enjoy it."
Zion's first NBA bucket 💪 pic.twitter.com/RTUtXXPbts— ESPN (@espn) January 23, 2020
Zion finds BI cutting to the rim for an easy 2! pic.twitter.com/qjjNg2a9kh— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 23, 2020
After starting of slow, Zion came alive in the fourth quarter at Smoothie King Center. Fans even started chanting "MVP."
ZION TAKEOVER ‼️‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/u8W7poQM3i— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 23, 2020
Zion Williamson is getting MVP chants in the Smoothie King Center. This is not a drill. pic.twitter.com/4mj89hhwGj— Jeff Nowak (Eyezon Zion) (@Jeff_Nowak) January 23, 2020
Zion Williamson scored 17 straight points for the Pelicans in a span of 3:29 in the 4th quarter.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2020
It's tied for the most points in a quarter in a player's 1st career game over the last 20 seasons. pic.twitter.com/HPhFsqpRqT
ESPN's Mark Jackson was criticized by some for questioning Zion's weight early in the game.
*Zion Williamson 3 minutes into his career*— Tony Clements (@TonyClementsTC) January 23, 2020
Mark Jackson: pic.twitter.com/FRpYi17izZ
Lol @ them posting Zion’s weight like a stat pic.twitter.com/u6cc5lN23n— Lip Gallagher (@tonestradamus) January 23, 2020
Zion's first game and we get Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson pic.twitter.com/47RCS4bG4t— 🌑 (@Kofie) January 23, 2020
After the game, Gentry spoke to reporters about Zion. "I think what you saw there is a taste of what... once we really get settled in and he gets settled in I think you can see... there's a lot of potential there," he said.
Check out more reactions and commentary to Zion's first regular season NBA game below.
“How many times will ESPN say Zion Williamson’s name tonight?” pic.twitter.com/JUm8dkwj8Z— NOTSportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) January 23, 2020
Nobody:— Jerry Jones’s Yacht Captain (@MJBIV4) January 23, 2020
Zion stans waiting for his first dunk back playing with the Pelicans pic.twitter.com/u3M78peZoy
*Spurs double team Zion on his first NBA touch*— Matthew McGovern (@MatthewMcGovern) January 23, 2020
Basketball fans everywhere: pic.twitter.com/bGHAIE2DMo
Crazy stat on the broadcast: there have already been more Zion Williamson jerseys and t-shirts sold than all members of the 2018 NBA first round draft class (which included Luka Doncic and Trae Young) combined.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 23, 2020
Zion ain’t dunked yet pic.twitter.com/2LFDbjQGCA— tb (@tblack) January 23, 2020
I’m ready to see Zion catch a body!!!— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) January 23, 2020
Zion Williamson just scored his first career NBA points pic.twitter.com/plMNLCnJt6— Noah / Clemson beat UNC and Duke back 2 back (@PrimeKorver26) January 23, 2020
4-4 FROM THREE ZION IS TAKING OVER pic.twitter.com/mTae6QXaxG— Dan Greenberg (@StoolGreenie) January 23, 2020
Zion blackin— Bas (@Bas) January 23, 2020
Zion finished out the game with 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 22 points. He played for 18 minutes.
The Pelicans lost to the Spurs with a final score of 117-121.
Battled until the end. pic.twitter.com/KD6iG6fwBG— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 23, 2020