In Zion Williamson’s short time in the NBA, he has received criticism for his lingering struggles with weight management. Despite that, the New Orleans Pelicans rising star has quickly become a significant offensive factor for the franchise. Now Hall of Famer Karl Malone has jumped into the mix with a strong critique toward Williamson.
Zion Williamson’s quick ascension to NBA stardom
Since entering the league, Zion Williamson has lived up to the hype around him with his promising play.
Williamson has excelled behind his explosive physicality and strength to quickly become a significant offensive factor. In his second campaign, he has taken another leap forward through the first 12 games averaging 23.4 points on 59.1% shooting from the floor and 8.0 rebounds.
The 20-year-old has hit an offensive surge in the past several games as ESPN Stats & Info noted he had become the youngest player in league history with consecutive performances of 30 points on at least 70% shooting from the floor. He is also the first player since Allen Iverson in 1996-97 to score at least 750 points before reaching his first 35 career games.
Williamson has struggled with injuries in his brief NBA career but has shown much reason for optimism. Despite that, he’s received criticism concerning his weight and health along the way. Hall of Famer Karl Malone is the latest to levy down harsh judgment toward Williamson.
Karl Malone unexpectedly shears harsh criticism toward Zion Williamson
Over the years, Hall of Famer Karl Malone has shown that he isn’t one to come out of the woodworks too often to speak publicly.
In one of his rare appearances on The Players’ Tribune’s Knuckleheads podcast with former NBA players Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, he criticized Zion Williamson, stating he shouldn’t be struggling to play 40 minutes a game at age 20. (H/T Bleacher Report)
“I’m still waiting on him to play the whole damn season. News flash: We [are] still waiting,” Malone said. “And he needs to be averaging 40 minutes a game. Look here, you’re a 21-, 22-year-old kid—your ass shouldn’t get tired.”
Williamson has had issues with his weight early in his career, while injuries have also played a factor. All that has guided the Pelicans to play it safe with the Duke product, as he’s averaging 32.6 minutes per contest this season.
In the current era of the NBA, playing 40 minutes a game isn’t a feasible mark, especially with teams looking to keep their players fresh throughout the year. Malone’s comments are more directed at Williamson, showing that he can handle an increased workload like many of the league’s other rising stars.
There are 15 players currently averaging 35 or more minutes per game, while Kevin Durant, who is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, is averaging 34.9 minutes per contest. What these comments from Malone underline is that there is a greater expectation for him.
In the same podcast interview, the former Jazz great stated that he would work for free to help the promising 20-year-old. Before Malone’s criticism, Williamson has become well aware of what he needed to do to take the next step into stardom.
Criticism aside, a bright future ahead
Karl Malone’s harsh criticism is one that will likely stick around Zion Williamson, but it shouldn’t overlook his bright future.
Williamson has already proven that he’s a cornerstone piece for the franchise alongside Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans possess other young assets such as Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball, and Jaxson Hayes.
New Orleans will need continued growth from their promising group to become a viable playoff team. The organization will give Williamson every opportunity to grow on both ends of the floor this season and beyond.
Much of his development will depend on his dedication to his craft, expanding beyond his dominance in the paint. The only lingering concern that remains is regarding his weight management. If he can keep that in check, the sky’s the limit for him in New Orleans.