Zion Williamson’s level of physical fitness has been a subject of debate since he first donned a New Orleans Pelicans uniform.
During the 2019 summer league edition, Williamson looked noticeably larger to the naked eye than he did months earlier while at Duke. Former head coach Mike Krzyzewski even commented on Zion’s appearance in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think he’s in the playing shape or the mental shape to play.”
Upon returning from right knee meniscus surgery and an extensive rehab process in his rookie season, Williamson didn’t appear to be in peak condition during his January 22nd debut against the Spurs. Once again, Zion’s weight was an immediate topic of conversation.
“He’s gotta get in better shape,” ESPN’s Mark Jackson said during the Pelicans-Spurs telecast. “He’s gotta lose some weight and get in better shape ... People in New Orleans believe he’s big-boned and that’s natural size. To me, that’s not the case. To me, the lighter he gets, the more explosive he’s going to be.”
Despite the surrounding controversy — and likely few extra pounds, Williamson went on to post impressive averages of 23.6 points (58.9 FG%), 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists before the coronavirus pandemic ground the NBA to a halt. Although he managed to slide only 19 games under his belt, Zion’s strong play vaulted him into a lot of Rookie of the Year talk, deservedly or not.
Then fans were taken on another roller coaster ride.
Before the games began in the Orlando restart, the excitement level hit a fever pitch, all thanks to one post on Twitter.
“Bane” Williamson looked absolutely ripped, and furthermore, several teammates confirmed that opinion in Zoom interviews with media right before the Pelicans were to travel to the bubble. Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived.
A week after arriving inside the bubble, a family emergency suddenly whisked Zion out of Orlando; however, he was able to return eight days later. What seemed a good omen for a Pelicans’ team striving to claw up into the 8th or 9th seed and earn the right to appear in the play-in tournament, turned into more questions than answers — Williamson looked out of shape and the team put him on another minutes restriction. Lo and behold, the Pelicans failed to find their footing.
The effort level witnessed in the eight seeding games was lackadaisical at best far too often. New Orleans wound up greatly disappointing inside the bubble, leaving meekly after winning just twice. It was an incredibly bitter end after the team had strung together 22 victories in 36 games before the Covid-19 shutdown.
Fast forward to today, the hype train may be back on the tracks and picking up passengers again. Zion Williamson looks as svelte as ever since leaving college, according to a picture of him in a post on Instagram.
There’s no doubt Williamson looks pretty darn good here, and it meshes nicely with an October appearance on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. Maybe the slimmer physique will stick this time.
Training camp begins in 10 days, and the start of the 2020-21 season is almost exactly one month away. If Zion looks like the guy in this photo on December 22, then we’ll have plenty of reason to celebrate.