Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans
Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans

Fears for ‘overweight’ rookie sensation

Zion Williamson took the basketball world by storm during his one and done season in college and he cashed in on that hype by going number one overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson provided a daily stream of mind boggling highlights consisting of nasty dunks and monster blocks.

On the college court he looked like a man among boys with his gigantic frame forcing defenders to get out of the way.

After being taken by the New Orleans Pelicans with the first overall pick, Williamson had every basketball fan giddy ahead of his professional debut.

The moment finally arrived on July 6 in Las Vegas when the Pelicans played their first Summer League game.

Unfortunately the biggest moment from the game was the earthquakes that rocked the entire state of California and not from any plays by Zion.

His debut was cut short by an injury and the Pelicans opted to play it safe and rule him out for the remainder of the tournament.

But it's an issue surrounding the weight of the most hyped prospect since LeBron James that has the NBA media worried.

Zion's former college coach Mike Krzyzewski believes his star pupil never should have stepped foot on the hardwood in the first place.

"I thought really he never should've played just because he's been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything," Krzyzewski told Forbes.

"I don't think he's in the playing shape or the mental shape to play."

Former superstar Charles Barkley doesn't believe the 19-year-old is fat, but says his current weight isn't sustainable for the NBA.

"I was fat. They going to have to do some really interesting tests on Zion's body because he doesn't look fat at all," Barkley said on ESPN's Get Up.

"But I was fat so I needed to lose weight, I don't know what his perfect planned weight is going to be, I thought 300 pounds (136kg) was my perfect weight in college and it was in college, but I had to lose 50 pounds (22kg) to become a Hall of Famer.

"I think he's got a great system down there in New Orleans, but they're going to have to come up with a comprehensive plan to see what the perfect playing weight is.

"I hear he weighs 280 (127kg), you can't play at that weight in the NBA. You can't play at that weight, it's too much stress on his knees.

"He's so big and strong, but everybody in the NBA is big and strong. He's going to have to figure out what the perfect playing weight is for his body."

Barkley's thoughts were reiterated by host Mike Greenberg who said his current weight won't hold up for a long-term career.

"My concern isn't about his game, my concern is about his body. I mean, you can't improve unless you're in shape, and he is not in shape," Greenberg said.

"Whatever his weight is, it's significantly overweight."

"Watching him in the Summer League, he played nine minutes. Look, he ripped the ball out of Kevin Knox's hand and dunked the ball, that's great.

"He couldn't move. He couldn't move. And in the end, if he's going to have a long career - and you made a great point earlier.

"When (Charles) Barkley was at his very best, he got in world-class shape. And it's nothing to do with his weight, to me, it has to do with his conditioning. And right now, he's in condition to get hurt, not to be a great player."

The injury sustained by Williamson isn't expected to keep him on the sidelines for an extended period, but Fox Sports' Jason Whitlock believes the Pelicans took him off the court to protect his confidence more so than the injury itself.

"Watching Zion in that Summer League game, the dude is 25 pounds overweight and it does concern me," Whitlock said on Fox Sports' Speak for Yourself.

"I'm completely on the Zion bandwagon and I still am, I think he's going to be a force. But when I watch that game, virtually every time he drove to the hoop if he didn't dunk he had trouble getting a shot off.

"It was like 'oh my god he's too big', he looks like he's 290 and his athleticism at that weight is not overpowering the Summer League and I felt like they protected him by taking him off the court."

Whitlock's concerns were backed up by fellow Fox Sports employee Mark Gottlieb who believes he needs to have a "body guy" with him at all times.

"The thing I was told about Zion Williamson by people in the Summer League is 1: His body is either going to be the limiting factor or the reason he succeeds, and 2: People are now looking at him going 'man, he's a lot smaller than I thought,' Gottlieb said on Fox Sports' The Herd.

"He's 6'5. He has a chance to be a tremendous small-ball five, but small-ball fives also have to cover Anthony Davis when they go small.

"There are some limitations to his size. He better buy a million dollars a year 'body guy' to follow him around and keep him in shape, because he HAS to lose weight, otherwise he runs the risk of those premature injuries."

Williamson’s debut didn’t blow anyone away.
Williamson’s debut didn’t blow anyone away.

Williamson is the marquee piece in what is a new look Pelicans team that is looking to climb the standings when the 2019/20 season gets underway.

If he can't regain his explosive athleticism that saw him become a global sensation in college, the fears over his weight and playing size will only grow.


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