Due to a fractured right foot suffered last summer, New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson missed the entirety of the 2021-22 NBA season. It was announced during New Orleans’ media day in September that Williamson had undergone surgery to repair the fracture and the timeline for a full return was vague basically the whole season before Williamson was ruled out for the year in late March.
Williamson, who recently inked a five-year, $193 million extension with the Pelicans, didn’t speak much publicly throughout the season, but has opened up this offseason about everything he’s endured and experienced amid his injury. He most recently spoke with GQ’s Tres Dean and discussed, in part, how he navigated that trying season.
The piece centers on Williamson’s love for anime, particularly Naruto, and catalogues his experience at San Diego’s Comic-Con earlier this summer. But the 22-year-old does touch on other topics, too. At one point, Williamson addresses how all the noise and unfounded speculation surrounding his prolonged absence and injury riddled 2021-22 affected him.
“It’s been a lot. I can sit here and explain it, but nobody will really be able to feel it the way I did,” he said. “My foot was broken and I couldn’t magically heal it. It hurt, because I love the game of basketball. But because of it, I was experiencing hate and pain from people I don’t know every day, and it started to wear on me.”
On multiple occasions now this offseason, Williamson has mentioned how the fallout and discourse stemming from his absence weighed heavy. This is yet another reminder to prioritize these athletes as humans and grant them as much understanding as we can. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful he’s been cleared to return to the floor and should be ready to lead a dangerous Pelicans squad this fall and beyond. Williamson is a delight to watch and a vivacious personality. We’re all lucky to watch him play.