August 15, 2022 | 2:00 pm EDT Update
There are over 2,000 people piled into Room 6BCF of the San Diego Convention Center at 10:30AM on a Saturday morning and Zion Williamson wants—no, needs—them to know he belongs here, too. These folks got up early on the busiest day of the biggest multimedia entertainment expo of the year to make sure they got an all-but-guaranteed seat for this event: a Comic-Con panel dedicated to Naruto, the long-running manga/anime franchise. And while Williamson is easily the most famous person in the room, he’s aware that most of the fans aren’t even there to see him.
Williamson talks about Naruto with the same reverence with which other NBA players talk about the Bible—it brings comfort and clarity in equal parts. Over the course of this past year—an unusually tumultuous one in his otherwise starry career—Naruto was his north star. Naruto launched in Japan in 1999, the year before Zion was born, and quickly became a phenomenon: these days there are some 250 million copies in circulation. The animated adaptation launched in 2005, and has remained similarly popular even since. Naruto inspires the sort of fandom that leads people to don elaborate cosplays, and to tattoo themselves with its iconography. Williamson is not the only athlete who’s a fan (UFC champ Israel Adesanya is another notable), but he is, so far, the only NBA player to build an entire sneaker collection around his love for the franchise.
Getting in shape won’t be enough—the Pels need him to stay in shape. They need his dunks to come when the clock is running, and preferably over the heads of other All-Star-caliber players. One person who doesn’t seem concerned about any of that is Williamson. Basketball is what he loves. And he never feels pressure when it comes to doing what he loves. Whatever weight his shoulders bore over the last year seems to have lifted. “I had to come to a realization,” he explains. “No matter what the world is saying, I have to remember that I am who I am and stay true to that. That’s what Naruto did, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Former National Basketball Association player Willie Burton of Bloomfield Hills is among a small group of contenders being considered by Republican Tudor Dixon to be her running mate as she campaigns for Michigan governor.
The estate of Zeke Upshaw, a rising basketball star who died on the court while playing for an affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, has reached a settlement of wrongful death claims with the minor league team, DeltaPlex Arena, and emergency responders, according to federal court filings in Michigan. Upshaw played for the Grand Rapids Drive, a G League team. He collapsed and died in March 2018 from cardiac arrest in the final minute of the team’s final game of the season.
August 15, 2022 | 1:39 pm EDT Update
Udonis Haslem discussed grants Monday at Nova Southeastern University. What he wouldn’t grant, however, was definitive insight on what comes next regarding his NBA career. “I don’t know,” Haslem said after completing a presentation on behalf of his foundation. “We’re thinking about it. But either way, I’m always going to be a part of the Heat family. I ain’t going nowhere, whether I play or not. I’m always going to impact that organization.”