Zion Williamson Dec 15, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) walks to the bench during the first quarter against the Charlotte Hornets at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this NBA season, ESPN’s two most high-profile studio analysts found a way to turn a fairly successful new showcase for the league in the NBA Cup into a nasty attack on the inconsistent, injury-riddled New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson. For more than a week, Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon traded barbs at Williamson, who finally appeared to be healthy but struggled through a ghastly performance against LeBron James in the tournament’s semifinal in Las Vegas.

In particular, Smith and Wilbon openly mocked Williamson’s weight. They quoted alleged sources in New Orleans’ culinary scene and gave eyewitness accounts of having seen Williamson’s “gut” hanging over his jersey at the foul line. It was a gross, overly personal bit of “analysis” with no real justification.

The Pelicans even went to bat for their star player, mocking Smith’s failed college basketball career. Smith later apologized on First Take after speaking with Williamson’s stepfather.

But this week, after a signature win by Williamson and the Pelicans last Friday over the Los Angeles Clippers, Smith made a point on his digital show to double back on his earlier opinions and praise Williamson’s season.

“With (this) Zion Williamson, New Orleans can make it to the Finals,” Smith said. “We cannot ignore that. We’ve got to give props where it’s due. Because Stephen A. is a fair-minded individual, and I would never allow my personal disgust when people try to troll me to camoflauge reality. Reality is, New Orleans can beat anybody … acknowledging as much is the fair and righteous thing to do.”

However, Wilbon did not follow his longtime colleague’s lead. Instead, on Monday’s Pardon the Interruption, Wilbon sidestepped a report from ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst about Williamson losing 25 lbs. and circle back on what he clearly thinks is a hilarious joke.

“All you’ve got to do is ask the chefs of New Orleans, they’ll back that up,” Wilbon said after cohost Tony Kornheiser teased the topic of Williamson’s weight.

Given that Smith insisted his point in criticizing Williamson was to call him up, not down, the least he could do is change his tune now. There is no denying Williamson has struggled with his weight and conditioning. And with numerous serious injuries over the years, even Pelicans leadership has publicly commented that Williamson needs to adjust his training. Smith probably didn’t need to go as far as he did, but he is correcting the record now.

Wilbon, on the other hand, is starting to feel like the friend in the group who can’t let a joke go. Maybe Kornheiser needs to tap him on the shoulder and let him know it’s time to move on.

[The Stephen A. Smith Show on YouTube, Pardon the Interruption on ESPN]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.