After the New Orleans Pelicans laid an egg in the semifinal of the 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament, much of the public criticism centered on the performance of Zion Williamson. He finished with just 13 points and two rebounds in the 44-point drubbing and, following the final buzzer, TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal directed pointed criticism in Williamson’s direction. That was followed by more nuanced discussion, including from a former teammates turned media member in JJ Redick, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith elected to weigh in with a particular line of inquiry regarding Williamson’s weight.
In fact, Smith went as far as to say “he looks fat” with regard to Williamson before unleashing a lengthy monologue that included his observation that he saw “a belly” on Williamson during the game.
Stephen A Smith calls Zion out for being ‘fat’
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) December 10, 2023
“Zion Williamson, who is more than five years younger, but 40 pounds heavier, went to the free throw line,” Smith said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I saw a belly. A belly. Like, when he took a deep breath, his belly bounced. That kind of belly. I mean, damn. Damn. What’s up, Zion?”
“It’s bad enough you got your ass kicked, losing by 44 points in the semifinals. Did nothing to lead and galvanize your team. Did nothing to show the man-child that you are and to take over. But you look like you showed up to the game having just ate a buffet. Not something from the buffet, I said the buffet. Like you ate the damn table. I wasn’t going to touch on this, because I was embarrassed for him. But then Sports Illustrated wrote about it, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, local newspaper, wrote about it. So it’s public information. He’s fat.”
Most individuals in the media would not attempt to get away with this kind of tone but, of course, Smith is not a typical media member. He certainly did not hide from his thoughts here and, while many would be softer in the framing, Smith is not alone is noting the apparent weight and body issues for Williamson at this stage. It remains to be seen as to how these comments will land, but Williamson is certainly under the spotlight at the moment.