Charles Barkley always has words for younger players in the NBA, and they aren’t always kind.
For Zion Williamson, however, Barkley has some positive ones. He says he wants to try to help the Pelicans’ potential superstar.
Barkley, who was criticized for being overweight during his playing career — much like Williamson is now — said that Williamson will only continue to get injured if he’s out of shape.
Williamson, who has played in 114 of a possible 308 games since being drafted in 2019, got as far as Jan. 2 this year before a hamstring injury forced him out of action and ultimately caused him to miss the remainder of the 2022-23 season.
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“You’re never going to be healthy (if you’re) out of shape,” Barkley said on Ernie Johnson’s “The Steam Room” podcast. “You’re too big to play basketball. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way. It’s positive criticism, critiquing. I want you to be a great basketball player. I’ve been in your shoes, being very talented, being overweight.”
Williamson is listed as 6-6 and 284 pounds.
Barkley said he wants to embody what the late Moses Malone was to him, referring to a story he often tells about Malone motivating him to lose weight and get into basketball shape.
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“Let me tell you something,” Barkley said to Johnson. “I’ve seen dozens of guys eat their way out of the NBA. And it can happen quickly. Because once you start getting hurt, you keep getting hurt. And you lose your talent.”
Williamson, who was a massively touted player coming out of Duke and the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, signed an extension with New Orleans prior to the 2022-23 season. The Pelicans have a promising core, but Williamson is the key to the team’s development.
Barkley went on to have a Hall of Fame career. He clearly thinks Williamson has that kind of talent, but for him to prove it, he needs to stay on the court.