Zion Williamson on How Gaining 100 Pounds in 2 Years Benefited His Game

Zion Williamson speaks on how his (major) growth spurt helped his game.

Zion Williamson
Image via Getty/Lance King
Zion Williamson

Whether it's triannual updates to baseball prospect lists, endless NFL Draft hype, or subconscious rooting for tanking in the NBA to acquire the next prodigy to build around, obsession with the next big thing has become its own sports subculture. And thus it's no shock that the arrival of the NBA's dog days in tandem with the build-up to college basketball's crescendo has increased the attention on Duke's Zion Williamson, the consensus choice for this year's top overall pick.

This attention surely brings request after request from media outlets who are interested in talking to Williamson while he is college basketball's biggest thing (it's always, by definition, a short run). And, on cue, GQ sat down with him to discuss his imposing size, the LeBron comparisons, and the highlight reel dunks he's put(ting) on tape, among many other things.

After saying that he didn't realize he was "unusually big" until his junior year, Williamson talked about how hitting his growth spurt about halfway through high school actually turned him into an athletic freak because it didn't come (as it often does) with a major reduction in speed.

"I didn’t pick up all this weight until junior year [of high school]," he explained. "Freshman year, I was small. I was 6-3, 175—like, I was small. And over the course of about two years I picked up a hundred pounds. I mean, I wouldn’t look at myself and go, Wow, I’m 250! I wouldn’t know I was 250 until I stepped on the scale, and then I’m like, Oh. I’m 250? I don’t feel 250. I don’t feel slow. Like, with all that weight just came more athleticism and finding myself able to do new things. People always say you have to grow into your body, but for me, it wasn’t even growing into my body—the more weight came, it didn’t phase me. It made me faster, stronger. It helped me become a more versatile player."

In the past, Williamson had also said that, despite their viral nature, he doesn't enjoy being known exclusively for his dunks. Interviewer Devin Gordon pointed out that his dunks get the most play despite the other facets of his game, which is a definite disservice to fans who see the game as more than just a series of condensed visceral reactions.

"I could probably score 40 points, get 10 rebounds, 10 assists, but I can have one dunk that was incredible and those other 38 points don’t matter no more," Zion said. "It’s like, 'Oh my god. He needs to be in a dunk contest! Did you see what he just did? That was incredible!' And at first it did kind of bother me—I’m not gonna lie. For a while I wouldn’t wanna dunk in the lay-up lines. People would start dunking and I would just go lay it in a dunk and ... we’ll be in the uprising. People started dunking I would just probably go lay it in for a while."

Asked to elaborate on that, Williamson made it clear that he just didn't want his overall style of play to be diminished.

"Yeah. That’s not me," he continued. "Then I sat down with Coach K and he talked to me about it. My parents also. Like, I wouldn’t be at Duke if all I could do was dunk. Duke recruits the best basketball players. They don’t recruit dunkers or highlight makers. They recruit good basketball players.

"So I thought about that, I felt more comfortable about myself, and the people who know basketball, they know that I bring to the table more than just dunking. So people wanna classify me as a dunker, they can. If my opponent wants to think of me as a dunker, it’s just gonna shock them more when I show them another part of my game."

Finally, though he said he usually tries to avoid it, Gordon asked Williamson what it feels like to be compared to LeBron. Because, though it's often crazy to do that, this time it doesn't seem so nuts.

"I mean, I appreciate the fact that people think that, but Michael Jordan’s Michael Jordan, LeBron’s LeBron, and they didn’t become who they were because they were compared to other people," Williamson answered. "I appreciate that people think that, give me the comparisons to LeBron, but I’m not LeBron. I’m myself. Before I got big I was playing point guard, so I’m kinda like a pass-first person. Some people tell me I should be more selfish, but that’s not me."

Check the entire interview out over at GQ.

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