If you got tired of the Ben Simmons or Kyrie Irving sagas in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, don't worry because a new superstar is making airwaves with some drama of his own. New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson. Williamson's recovery from a right foot injury has been filled with setbacks, with concerns around the All-Star's weight raising questions about his commitment to the grind of NBA basketball. Zion is an unbelievable talent, but the best ability is availability, something that has been a weak point for the former Duke Blue Devil since he began his NBA career.
When he is on the court, Zion is absolutely brilliant. Last season, Williamson finished seventh in scoring on an impressive 60% from the field in just his second NBA season. However, his inability to work himself into superior basketball conditioning reminds me of a similar talent from the 90s, Shawn Kemp. Unfortunately for Kemp, his NBA success was short-lived, in a career highlighted by being out of shape for most of his supposed prime years.
Kemp helped lead the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Finals in 1996, and along with Gary Payton, kept their team among the Western Conference's elite for most of their time together. Payton went on to have a Hall of Fame career while Kemp struggled to keep in shape during the 1999 lockout, never regaining his old form while quickly descending into basketball irrelevance. Kemp gained 35 lbs during the lockout.
“He was really very honest about it,” former Cavs coach Mike Fratello recalled. “I said, ‘Shawn, how did this happen?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t think we were coming back.’”
Mike Fratello, Cleveland.com
The story of "The Rain Man" is a cautionary tale about the rigors of the NBA, the moral of the story being that no player survives on talent alone. With reports of Zion missing rehab and falling asleep in film sessions, it seems as if the former first overall pick may be taking this opportunity for granted. When he's on the floor and in shape, Zion is unstoppable, but it seems that the battle against his physical fitness is going to be the greatest challenge of his young career.
Will Zion be able to turn the corner and get his body right? Or will he continue to rely on just his talent and suffer a fate similar to that of Shawn Kemp? It would be a shame to see such a talent have his career come to an end earlier than expected because of weight issues, especially one with a future as bright as Zion's.