With the NBA’s Orlando slate set to get underway later this month, players are beginning to return to their respective facilities to resume team workouts. While uber-talented Zion Williamson’s potential for NBA stardom is universally acknowledged, the Pels phenom does have his fair share of detractors, many of whom point to his troubling injury history and unusual proportions (he’s listed at a sturdy 6’6” and 284 pounds) as cause for concern.
Many prominent basketball voices including ESPN analysts Paul Pierce and Tracy McGrady have previously implored Zion to lose weight, citing improved mobility and reduced injury risk as potential benefits of slimming down. Williamson, who was averaging a healthy 23.6 points per game when the league halted play amid the coronavirus in March, must have taken that criticism to heart because the latest photo evidence suggests Zion spent his quarantine getting absolutely ripped.
Sporting a cutoff hoodie stolen from Bill Belichick’s closet, the rookie turned heads Thursday, showing up to team workouts looking leaner and meaner than ever. In a photo posted to the Pelicans’ official Twitter page, the shredded 19-year-old looks ready for war with enormous biceps and a chiseled chest sculpted by Michelangelo.
Pro athletes arriving to training camp in the “best shape of their life” are a dime a dozen, but in the case of Zion, it might actually be true. The former Duke standout has gone from doughy to a pillar of physical fitness in record time. Mark Titus of Fox Sports reports Williamson shed 25 pounds of fat while adding 10 pounds of “explosive, dynamic” muscle during the Pelicans’ four-month hiatus. With his mask on, you can hardly tell the difference between Zion and Batman’s arch-nemesis Bane.
Many were concerned players would arrive to camp out of shape following the league’s extended layoff, but instead we’ve seen the opposite with high-profile stars like Williamson and Nikola Jokic both debuting impressive new physiques. The Pelicans still need a lot of help to make the postseason—they trail eighth-seeded Memphis by 3.5 games in the West with only eight games remaining. But with Williamson healthy and in peak physical condition, who knows how high New Orleans can soar?