So much for body positivity.
Zion Williamson made his much-touted NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday evening after undergoing meniscal surgery in October. The 6-foot-6, 285-pound striker prevailed four minutes before the start of the game, and ESPN immediately focused on the 19-year-old's weight.
The network flashed a graphic When the camera bridged Williamson on the sidelines, "Weight: 285 lbs (third strongest player in the NBA this season)".
Williamson's weight has been checked since he played at Duke last year. Some have wondered if his size is partly responsible for the meniscal injury that cost him the first half of his rookie season, and if that could hinder the rest of his NBA career.
It didn't take analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy long to get there. The duo said it was clear that Williamson looked heavier than the last time they saw him and that after missing 44 games, he had to retire to start his NBA career. Continuing that they could not believe that he had gained eight pounds in a week after exercising again, they asked if 285 pounds were correct at all.
Jackson said he placed Ja Morant, number 2 of the Grizzlies, over Williamson.
Excited fans immediately noticed the focus of the announcer and broke out on Twitter.
"Shame on you, @espn @ESPNNBA for shaming Zion on his debut !! Of all the statistics you choose to talk about his weight … SAD !!! @ Zionwilliamson #nba, ” wrote @realcabocorso,
"OH MY GOD, YOU'RE AShamed of ZION ON ESPN FAT said @BrandonWagemann,
"Can we be outraged at Mark Jackson for being ashamed of fat just for ESPN to take him out of the air?" wrote @Mikearooonie,
"Should let Doris [Burke] Game by game for this game. Mark Jackson and [Jeff Van Gundy] I will spend the next three quarters shaming Zion. " wrote @ Murrminks,
The wrestler's NBA Twitter account impaled Jackson: "Zion, if you see that, don't listen to Mark Jackson. We think you just look great. #BodyPositivity."
The Athletic Sam Vecenie tweeted"It would be great if the speakers didn't need to call Zion Fat 3 minutes after his career. Would result in a much better product, imo."
After a slow start, the rookie striker ended with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes. It exploded in the fourth quarter and scored 17 direct points for the pelicans in one go. The fans cheered, "We want Zion!" After sitting out after this run when New Orleans was cautiously heading for the Duke star's return.
"No, he couldn't get back into the game," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said afterwards. "The doctors said that was it."
The Spurs defeated the pelicans between 121 and 117.
"Only the energy the audience brought, the energy the city brought, was electric and I'm just grateful that they did," Williamson said after the game. "It was a dream to finally get out of there. But at the end of the day I wanted to win, so I just have to watch the next game. "
The pelicans (17-28) compete against the Nuggets (30-14) in New Orleans on Friday evening.