Zion Williamson Hit With a Message From Pelicans Fans That Should Serve as a Harsh Reality Check

In the summer of 2019, New Orleans Pelicans fans were on cloud nine. The Pelicans selected generational talent Zion Williamson with the first-overall pick and traded franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis for a massive haul of picks and players. Led by Williamson, New Orleans had a talented young core set up for years of prosperity.

It’s now 2022. Brandon Ingram is the only player left from the Davis blockbuster. The 24-36 Pelicans are headed toward their fourth straight losing season. And Zion is nowhere to be found.

Williamson has been M.I.A. all throughout his third professional season. The reason is legitimate — a prolonged recovery from a broken foot suffered last offseason. However, there are multiple sources pulling back the curtain on Zion’s strained relationship with the Pels.

Pelicans fans are understandably tired of waiting for the All-Star to return to action. Between the nagging injuries and off-the-court tension, Williamson is tanking his already-declining goodwill. And if there was ever any proof as to how Zion is affecting the disgruntled fan base, look no further than at New Orleans’ largest annual celebration.

The Pelicans are struggling as Zion Williamson continues his lengthy rehab

While Zion was considered a can’t-miss prospect and a deserving number-one pick, durability issues remained his greatest concern. So far, injuries are keeping him from becoming one of the league’s top players.

Williamson’s rookie year was delayed by several months due to a torn meniscus suffered in the preseason. He then fractured his finger near the final few weeks of his second year before breaking his foot last summer.

That means the 21-year-old missed 48 games his rookie year, 11 last year, and now 60 and counting for the Pelicans in 2021-22.

With Williamson rehabbing away from the team, New Orleans is currently on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture. The 24-36 Pels remain a game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for the 10th and final spot in the play-in round. While the Pelicans pulled off a surprising victory over the first-place Suns in their last contest, they’re just 2-4 since acquiring CJ McCollum ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.

The Pelicans have just 22 games left to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2017-18. Though given how Zion isn’t close to setting a target date, they’ll be facing an uphill battle.

Fans in New Orleans made their frustration with Zion loud and clear

Typically, if fans are unhappy with a certain player, they’ll let them hear it on the court. However, with Williamson nowhere near a court at the moment, Pelicans fans have to be a little more creative.

Good thing it’s Mardi Gras season.

Thursday night, New Orleans held its annual Knights of Chaos parade downtown, one of the city’s many Mardi Gras parades. One particular float was made by a group of frustrated Pelicans fans, fittingly titled “Setback.”

Along with a deep-fried Pelican sitting near the front and center of the float, the side featured a cartoonish portrayal of Williamson surrounded by the money in his current (or future) contract. However, the real dig was at Zion’s size, as the portrait made him significantly overweight while changing his name from Zion to “1Ton.”

Offensive body-shaming aside, the float was a loud display from Pelicans fans regarding their thoughts and feelings on Williamson. Even if the third-year forward does make it back before the regular season ends, it might be a while before he earns the love and respect back from the people who previously adored him.

It’s been a rough few months for Zion Williamson

Zion is far from blameless throughout this whole saga. The 6-foot-6 star has been rehabbing away from the team and remains generally distant. And after McCollum revealed that Zion never reached out to him after the trade, former Pelicans player JJ Redick called his ex-teammate “detached.”

As we’ve seen with Ben Simmons, mental health is something that cannot go overlooked. So yes, Williamson hasn’t handled things well. But he’s currently dealing with an injury that won’t heal, a former teammate that threw him under the bus, and a fan base that viciously attacked his weight. All at just 21 years old and in an Internet age where there’s no escaping the criticism.

Pelicans fans certainly have a level of frustration after the last few months. But so does Zion, albeit for different reasons. He would much rather be on the court playing than sitting out, so the least fans could do is encourage him to return when his body is ready.

And stop with the ridiculous floats, please.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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