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Stephen A. Smith clarifies comments on Zion Williamson, takes aim at Pelicans’ lack of playoff success

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The New Orleans Pelicans appear firmly entrenched in Stephen A. Smith’s crosshairs.

Over the past several months, Smith has brought attention to Pelicans star Zion Williamson’s weight. And Smith’s most recent criticism of Williamson sparked a feud between the Pelicans social media team and the high-profile television personality.

“Zion Williamson, it’s not about his game,” Smith said last week during an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up.” 

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“It’s about how many burgers he’s eating. Whether he is going to be in shape or keep eating McDonald’s. …That’s what he has to prove, that the chefs don’t love him any longer.” 

TV personality Stephen A. Smith leaves Fox 29’s “Good Day” at FOX 29 Studios after promoting his book, “Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes” Jan. 19, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images)

The remarks appeared to prompt the Pelicans to post a graphic showing Smith’s stats from his 1990-91 basketball season. The Pelicans also shared a video on X, formerly Twitter, featuring Smith making a number of athletic blunders.

“It doesn’t bother me that you troll me. I can take it,” Smith said in response to the video during a recent edition of his podcast, “The Stephen A. Smith Show.”

“You see, do you realize at Division II Winston-Salem State, I could have been on the court averaging 20 to 25 [points] a game, and I still wouldn’t compare to a single one of y’all who made it to the NBA? Do you understand that I know that no matter how you gloss over anything, meaning myself or anybody else, I don’t compare to y’all?”

Smith cited a 1989 injury for his low point total. 

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“I was hurt … 1989. I cracked my kneecap in half. They told me I might never be able to walk the same again, and even though I maintained my scholarship, I was nothing more than a practice player because I couldn’t run up and down the court more than three or four times without limping. How do we know this? Because I’m 56, and I still limp after running for a little while.” Smith said.

Zion Williamson grimaces

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson heads to the bench in the second half of a game against the Denver Nuggets Nov. 6, 2023, in Denver.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Smith did acknowledge he does not compare athletically to Williamson or his teammates because they are professional players. But he also took some jabs at the Pelicans.

“I couldn’t shine Zion’s shoes, nor C.J. McCollum, nor Brandon Ingram, nor any of them,” said Smith. “That’s why y’all in the NBA and I’m not. But let me tell you something about you New Orleans. Because since we want to be up here and we want to make sure that we are as thorough as we can possibly be. Let’s talk about the New Orleans Pelicans franchise for a second.

“You are in your 22nd season in New Orleans since your relocation from Charlotte. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know that by being named the Hornets and then the Pelicans, you have as many names as you do playoff series victories in 22 years. You have won two playoff series in 22 years. You have the same amount of playoff series victories as you do names! And you are talking about me? At least I’m not robbing the public by getting paid for not doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is win.”

Smith addressed Pelican analyst Antonio Daniels, who described the “First Take” host’s initial comments as “inappropriate and lazy.”

Stephen A. Smith at the Finals

Stephen A. Smith before Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets June 1, 2023, at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colo. (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

“I was joking around about Zion Williamson not eating too much. We need him healthy, on a good diet so he’s strong and he’s powerful. I did not imply that he’s not doing it now. I said it as a concern, Antonio Daniels. I said it as a concern, New Orleans Pelicans. I was half joking because I’m rooting for the kid, and I’m rooting for the franchise,” Smith said.

The Pelicans appeared to continue the dispute with Smith by posting a meme that featured three messages that said, “I ain’t watching all that,” “I’m happy for u tho” and “or sorry that happened,” in an apparent response to Smith’s 10-minute video.

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The Pelicans are in sixth place in the Western Conference with a 34-24 record.

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