In a recent article on GQ, New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson opened up about his love for anime and just how many other NBA players are into the medium. He revealed that his favorite series was Naruto and how the character helped him through the toughest times of his life (i.e., his injury and everything revolving around that). In fact, Williamson’s anime love ran so deep that it became the main point of the entire article. For the same article, he also estimated that “around 80% of players in the league are into anime; they just won’t admit it.”
That segment specifically in the article reads:
“Zion estimates that around 80% of players in the NBA are into anime; they just won’t admit it. Those familiar with the conventions of anime know that it would be hard to craft a genre better suited for professional athletes: Shonen anime ( the term for shows target at boys). This genre often revolves around the protagonist striving to achieve greatness in their chosen field. They’re long-form stories about what it takes to be The Best- not incidentally, the same goal that drives athletes.”
NBA Players and Anime: Zion Williamson’s Not the Only One
Zion Williamson is also part of a Naruto collaboration with Viz Media and the Jordan Brand to promote Naruto-themed shoes and clothes. In July, he personally attended Comic-Con International: San Diego dressed as a Hokage. He also spoke publicly about his appreciation for the series. When asked about it, Williamson elaborated on how Naruto’s titular hero has helped him bounce back from a serious injury and deal with the mental pressure from everyone.
In recent years, more and more athletes have been making anime references. Back in 2016, someone recorded a video of NBA star Steve Adams in 2016 watching anime on his phone (his favorites are One Piece and One Punch Man). In 2018, someone also filmed NBA star Joel Embiid watching anime (specifically Dragon Ball GT) as a part of his pre-game routine. Only fans of both sports and anime can hope that their favorite character can speak up (and coincidentally like the same series as them).