NBA, what you gonna do when Big Poppa comes for you?
At the New Orleans Pelicans Media Day, Zion Williamson showed up to his press conference with the veins in the middle of his bicep muscles bulging. That’s really all anyone needed to know about him three weeks before the start of the NBA regular season. He could’ve sat down, put his fist on the podium, paused for a couple of seconds, and then walked down the stairs and left.
That would be enough evidence to answer the question that everyone has been asking about Williamson since his foot blew out of his shoe in that Duke-North Carolina game that was so highly publicized, former President Barack Obama decided to attend — is he taking proper care of his body?
His physique, and his getting lost on the court during too many defensive possessions, are the only flaws in his basketball game. For those who didn’t believe that Williamson’s physical style of play would translate to the NBA, he showed it would in that Summer League game when he ripped the ball out of Kevin Knox’s arms like a schoolyard bully.
Williamson, who hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since May 5, 2021, however, did decide to speak. He talked at the press conference, to NBATV’s Stephanie Ready, and ESPN’s Malika Andrews. Many of the questions were about the changes he has made to the maintenance of one of the most uniquely athletic bodies in the world. The questions were asked respectfully but they weren’t avoided.
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He was vague but his words were as clear as the image of his bulging biceps, that his approach to the offseason is far different than the previous one. If he was reckless, he could sign for a lot of money with a weight-loss company and advertise the product with before and after pictures of last season’s media day compared to this year’s.
At the end of the interview, he did get a little descriptive about his mindset when he discussed an album that he’s been giving a lot of spins recently, The album was released six years before his birth, but Williamson has become a huge fan of the Notorious B.I.G.’s debut project, Ready to Die.
“That album lyrically,” Williamson said. “How he talked about stress. What he was dealing with. Just feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you feel like you standing alone. That album kind of helped me shift my mindset.”
Lock your windows, and close your doors. Zion Williamson on the court is about to be a bad bad man.
That album is about Biggie Smalls’ struggle with poverty, the darkness that it created inside of him, and the depression that took its darkest turn during “Suicidal Thoughts,” when the song ends with a gun going off.
But the hour before that is mostly B.I.G. talking about doing whatever it takes to get some money in his pocket. He’s been without it for too long, and that way of life is over. If it requires taking what you have, he’s absolutely going to make you hand it over.
If Williamson is pumping iron and running to lines like, “All purpose war. Got the Rottweilers by the door. And I feed em gunpowder, so they can devour, any criminals tryin’ to drop my decimals,” don’t get in the man’s way when he comes down the lane.
His trainer recently spoke to The Athletic’s Will Guillory and went into a bit of detail about what they have been doing to not only get Williamson back on the court but, better than ever before and keep him there for a long career. Jasper Bibbs flat out said that part of the work is to make Williamson’s frame able to withstand the force created by his size and dynamic, high-impact, athleticism, which included addressing his body weight and body fat.
“The more weight he carries around, the more stress it puts on the body,” Bibbs told Guillory.
So they put in work. It started with a more rehab-centric approach back when they went to Portland this past winter while Williamson was still dealing with the foot injury that kept him out all season. Then, when he was fully medically cleared in May, they really got down to business. They went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and did two-a-day workouts. Waking up to hit the gym at 5 a.m in the middle of summer, “The What” and “Machine Gun Funk” would certainly set the mood for an active day, that begins in the literal dark.
The fact that he is personally relating to this particular classic, that as of this month was released 28 years ago, shows that his mind is changing and whatever focus wasn’t on basketball is there now. His body looking the way that it does only three days into training camp shows that if anything goes wrong physically this year, it most certainly won’t be his fault.
Zion Williamson has arrived for the 2022-23 season looking like a savage that’s about to be doing opposing NBA defenders’ brain cells much damage.