Zion on max contract: 'I'm not going to let the city down' (1:05)

On his birthday, Zion signed a five year max contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Affirmative.

6:57 PM ET

A year ago, the city of New Orleans was a different place. On his 21st birthday last year, Zion had a broken foot that ended up costing him the season. On his 22nd birthday, he signed his five-year designated rookies max extension that could be worth up to $231 million.

When asked where this birthday ranks, he smiled and patted the vice president on the shoulder. He said number one.

The extension was signed in front of a group of kids at his camp. Lee and Sharonda Anderson sat next to their son at a table, while his brother stood to his right. A majority of the kids from the camp were gathered around the table. As he put the cap on the pen, he looked up and said he was locked in.

If he makes an All-NBA team next season, his five-year, $193 million deal could jump to $231 million. During the news conference after the signing, it was stated that the player option on the end of the deal was not included. Brandon signed a five-year deal with New Orleans with no option after he signed his five-year deal with New Orleans.

Zion wanted to make the same commitment to this organization. He wasn't trying to get out. He was trying to find a way to remain. His family wanted to be more involved with the community. This is a part of us. He spoke about how the last season had taken its toll on him when he spoke to the media.

I would like to say thank you to my family. I would like to thank the Y. I would like to extend my gratitude to the city of New Orleans. Thank you for believing in me, I appreciate it. Giving a kid like me a chance to showcase my abilities and hopefully help bring the team multiple championships is what it's about. I would like to thank y'all for sticking with me.

I broke my foot on my birthday. I didn't work for the entire year. The year was difficult. I'm not going to let the pelicans down, that's for sure. I will not allow my family to be down. I will not allow the city to fall. I will not let myself down.

The last few months have been a roller coaster of emotions for both him and his family. He said it was his family that took the brunt of the talk about his desire to stay in New Orleans.

I told the world if they wanted to know if I wanted to be here. The world just ran with narratives. When my family was talking about why they don't like New Orleans, we didn't want to be here. I was unable to play because of a broken foot. That wasn't good. The phone was always negative. It was very difficult to make a positive of the situation.

The basketball player was cleared to play again on May 26. The focus is on getting ready for the 2022-23 season, a season in which he wants to prove more than just that he is healthy again.

I want to prove that I'm a winner. As simple as that. I would like to win with the coach. It was also with my teammates. Winning the title is the ultimate goal. I think we all want that. We are hungry. I'm excited to add to what the team has done.

The Pelicans staff helped him work on things to improve his longevity, according to the player. He thought he was in a good situation.

The team that he last played with will look a lot different when he returns. Some of the new players include center Jonas Valanciunas, forward Larry Nance Jr., guard Devonte' Graham, guard Jose Alvarado, and second-year players.

The core of that group that led New Orleans through last season's play-in tournament and into the first round of the playoffs was the one that lost in the first round. New Orleans accomplished that under first-year coach Willie Green, who was excited at the prospect of finally getting to coach.

Zion is a big part of what we do and what we want to accomplish, but it's not necessarily him fitting in. It's possible for him to do that with any team. "Maximizing the group that we have when we add him to it is what it is about." The rest of the NBA is going to be scared. Work is going to be done there. Groups play well together. Different mismatches can be taken advantage of. We don't know how to put all of our guys on the floor and give them a chance to succeed. That requires a lot of work. I think we can be a scary team when it all comes together.