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Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Jason Miller/Getty Images

LeBron James, whose play defined the last two decades of NBA basketball, scored a season-high 40 points in his first matchup against Zion Williamson (29 points), whose play could define the next two decades.

Fun fact: LeBron has now faced a fellow No. 1 overall pick 356 times — and he's finished with the scoring advantage in 297 of those games, per ESPN.

The big picture: LeBron and Zion have so much in common — game-breaking athleticism, unparalleled hype — yet the experience of watching them play basketball is "fascinatingly different," writes The Ringer's Brian Phillips:

  • "Something about watching Zion really, really makes people want to describe him in cartoonishly evocative, absurdist-poetic language. ... When Zion tears the sole of his shoe, venerable organs of sports journalism like Sports Illustrated tweet that his shoe 'LITERALLY EXPLODED,' in all caps."
  • "[T]he language we use for LeBron tends to evoke something more like an 18th-century sovereign, or maybe a Roman general. ... An incredible dunk from LeBron will rarely be described as a rose blooming inside a cyclone of lasers; it will be described, instead, as 'an incredible dunk from LeBron.'"
  • "LeBron's career coincided with the apex of a post–Michael Jordan tendency to represent the league in terms of organized macro-narrative and all-time rankings."
  • "Zion has come along at a moment when our experience of basketball is shifting back toward the fun mess of one present moment: the highlight, the GIF, the second of shareable chills."
  • "In a pretty natural, unforced way, then, the two players seem to personify the dominant tendencies of an era in transition."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

2 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

3 hours ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.