Leave Zion Williamson alone. Did Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka not teach us anything?

Leave Zion Williamson alone. Did Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka not teach us anything?

From college to the NBA, as long as we’ve been watching Zion Williamson play basketball, he’s never had a season that wasn’t impacted by an injury. Since his one-and-done year at Duke to his four seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, the league’s most electrifying player still hasn’t been able to showcase his skills for 82 games. And although Williamson’s body has been cleared to play, it doesn’t mean that his mind is ready. Knowing yourself is always a good thing. It’s even better if you’ve reached a place where you can talk about it.

“Physically I’m fine, now it’s just a matter of when I feel like Zion,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I know the atmosphere I’d be entering based off like the playoff experience. So now it’s just a matter of when I feel like Zion.

“I don’t feel like there are any specific benchmarks for being Zion,” he added. “It’s just a matter of like, you know, when I feel like myself. Just feeling like myself and knowing that I can go out there and have a big impact for my team.”

If Zion doesn’t feel like Zion, then what’s the point of putting Zion on the floor?

There isn’t one, despite the $193 million asset he’s become.

“It’s a little bit of a mental battle, because you know when I reaggravated [the injury] back in February, it was tough,” said Williamson. “So when I go to make certain moves, there is that hesitation. Sometimes there’s not and sometimes there is. And I understand the magnitude of these games coming up and I don’t want to be out there hesitating or doing something that may affect my team in a bad way.”

Have you ever seen a coach tell a player to “get their head in the game?” Well, Williamson just told us that his isn’t. And it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Parts of our society have evolved to a point where people are more understanding about mental health.

And then there’s the other side

“He’s missed 169 games in his [four-year] career and hasn’t played in at least 40 percent of his games,” Stephen A. Smith recently said on ESPN’s First Take.

“You can’t make a statement like, ‘Oh, when I feel like Zion.’

“Players taught us a long time ago, ‘We never feel like we’re 100 percent. Sometimes we never feel like our fresh, completely healthy selves.”

“I don’t twist (on tour). I do double lay half-outs, which is my signature move on the floor. That’s never affected me. But everything else weighs so heavy, and I watch the girls do it, and it’s not the same,” Simone Biles said on NBC’s “Today” show back in 2021 after she shocked the world by sitting out of competition at the Olympics due to a bout of ‘the twisties” — a kind of mental block that some gymnasts can suffer.

“But the twisting, once I got back, will come back. But I’m still scared to do gymnastics,” she added.

In Williamson’s case, he had the chance to show off his game in a must-win situation that turned out to be the New Orleans Pelicans’ season finale. For Biles, it was a chance for the greatest gymnasts of all time to add even more accomplishments to her resume. And in the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo, he had just cashed out on millions and was still almost ready to give it all up.

“In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game. I had that conversation – yes – with the front office, the Bucks star recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“And, you know, very normally, everybody is looking at me like I was crazy. ‘You just signed the largest contract in NBA history — a five-year, $228 million supermax contract extension — and you want to walk away from the game and all that money…?’

“Mannnnn, you can take that money and shove it into your…

“But. I don’t care about that. I care about joy. I’m a joyful person,” he added “My father didn’t have nothing; he had us. He was the richest person on earth because he had his kids. He had the beautiful family; he had nothing. This – to me – doesn’t mean nothing.”

You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes

According to Johns Hopkins, one in four adults suffers from diagnosable mental disorders every year, while approximately 9.5 percent of American adults suffer from a depressive illness annually. Those percentages include the professional athletes we watch on TV. It’s why I used their quotes in this column more than my words, as their experiences and reasons needed to be heard more than anything I could ever write.

So the next time you’re upset that an athlete has called it quits early, the over/under you wagered on a game was affected due to someone being out for “personal reasons,” or you think that Zion Williamson should play because you know his mind and body better than he does, remember what you’ve read today. Just because athletes can jump higher than us, it doesn’t mean that they’re any better at rising over life’s hurdles. 

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.