Shonen anime like Naruto have long been popular throughout the world, but did you know that one NBA star is a Naruto superfan? So much so that the series has helped him adjust to the tumultuous life of a pro basketball star.
This NBA player is none other than Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans. In a recent interview with GQ, Williamson shared his love of Naruto and how it helped him through the recent challenges of his pro career.
If you haven’t been following the NBA recently, Williamson is a star player of the Pelicans who was selected by the team as the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Even before being drafted into the NBA, Williamson was a highly touted prospect during his college career as a member of the Duke Blue Devils. Given the hype surrounding his NBA debut, Williamson had a ton of pressure on his shoulders.
It didn’t help that Williamson has faced several injuries which have prevented him from playing in the NBA for an extended period. This resulted in lots of scrutiny from the NBA media.
As he went through these difficult times, Williamson revealed that he turned to Naruto for guidance. Specifically, he mentioned how he feels that his current journey mirrors Naruto’s difficult quest of becoming Hokage.
“No matter what the world is saying, I have to remember that I am who I am and stay true to that,” said Williamson. “That’s what Naruto did, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Williamson is not just a recent fan of the series. He revealed that his love of Naruto began when he was five. Back then, he happened to watch Naruto on Adult Swim. Since then, he has become obsessed with the show.
One specific part of the show which Willamson felt to be the most relatable in his current NBA journey was when Sasuke went rogue to join Orochimaru.
When faced with this, Naruto was forced to make tough decisions during his journey, a feeling that Williamson is all too familiar with given the criticisms and the weight of expectations that he is facing.
Another interesting tidbit from the interview was how, according to Williamson, 80% of players in the NBA are anime fans, though most of them won’t admit it.
Though given that anime fandom has become more mainstream now, it won’t be surprising to see more pro basketball players profess their anime fandom.
Even before this interview, Williamson has already made Naruto references. Back in 2016, he tweeted “I'm going to shock the world” with the hashtag #Believeit, showing how the series is a constant source of inspiration for him.