Victor Wembanyama: All Set To Take The Basketball World Over

Victor Wembanyama

Victor Wembanyama is an absolute basketball phenom. Becoming a global basketball star almost seems to be his destiny. Ever since he was a young kid, Wembanyama was expected to be an NBA star. Victor Wembanyama’s star continued to shine and he was eventually drafted first overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2023 NBA Draft. Let’s take a quick look at his meteoric rise.

Victor Wembanya: The World Is Yours

The Beginnings

American recruiters were already practicing pronouncing his name. At 18, Victor Wembanyama, who had just left Asvel to join the Metropolitans 92 of Boulogne-Levallois on Monday, July 4, was expected to be the new star of French basketball. If he was not yet known to the general public, the 2.19 m prodigy risked very quickly seeing his notoriety go beyond French borders, as most observers promised him a glorious future in the NBA.

“He was my height, 1.70 m, around 8 years old. And when he was 5 years old, everyone thought he was 10,” said AFP’s Emmanuel Saravas, his former coach at the Le Chesnay-Versailles agreement, his first club. It is in this commune of Yvelines that little Victor began to handle the orange ball. “We suspected that he was going to have a body to play high-level basketball: his mother is 1.91 m, his father is 2.05 m,” continued his first coach. Above all, beyond size, both parents are passionate about basketball and sports. The mother was a player, coached at Chesnay-Versailles and closely monitored her son’s beginnings, while the father, a former long jump athlete, is a physical trainer. A family setting reminiscent of Parker, Diaw and Batum (all NBA players).

Always Performing 

Wembanyama is a precocious type. At the age of 10, young Victor joined Hauts-de-Seine and Nanterre 92, before joining the training center four years later. There, he quickly rose through the ranks, always outclassing his opponents, to the point of making his professional debut, in the European Cup, at the age of 15. The same year, he was mentioned in an article by the powerful American media outlet ESPN  which described him as a “unicorn in development”. A reference to his unique measurements, coupled with his above-average technical background.

Last summer, Wembanyama gained a little more notoriety during the U19 world championship, where France finished with the silver medal, beaten by only two points by the United States in the final. The young talent was selected among the five best players in the competition, only a few days after obtaining his baccalaureate with honors and… a year in advance.

Among professionals, the phenomenon continued to do everything faster than others. After two seasons in Betclic Elite (1st division), one at Nanterre then one at Asvel, Wembanyama won the championship’s best young player trophy twice in a row. Over the past twenty years, three players have been distinguished in this way (Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier and Frank Ntilikina) and they have all had careers in the NBA. “I confirmed that I could dominate in Betclic Elite and in the Euroleague”, said a confident Wembanyama.’

A Unicorn

The history of basketball is peppered with young hopefuls with gigantic measurements but who lack technical finesse or the ability to repeat physical efforts. If Victor Wembanyama is the object of all desire, it is because he has the potential to tick all these boxes. During his two seasons in the professional world, he showed qualities as a scorer, passer and formidable defender, all with coordinated footwork, clean shooting mechanics and an ability to run back and forth on the court. The icing on the cake is that the colossus is rather adept at free throws, the usual Achilles heel of large players. On average, he finished with 70% success in this exercise this season at Asvel.

American recruiters have a time-honoured expression to define Victor Wembanyama’s potential: they speak of “generational talent”. Like Tony Parker in France, Lebron James or recently Luka Doncic, he is one of those players who would only appear once in a generation. No wonder he is already at the top of the list of talents expected to join the NBA in 2023.

His “two-on-two” training match against two French NBA players, former Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier (at the time with the Boston Celtics), only increased expectations around him. The video, posted to Twitter (now X) in 2020, has been viewed more than a million times.

Is Victor Wembanyama injury prone?

The only downside: is the physical aspect. Wembanyama remains frail, even if he has made enormous progress in this aspect at Nanterre, and then at Asvel. In 2020, Philippe Da Silva, who trained him during his time at Nanterre, reported in the columns of Ouest-France that the giant was still missing a few kilos to be able to compete with the big guys in the Euroleague and then the NBA. “For two years, with the work of the physical trainer, Victor has gained 23 kg. He weighed 72 kg when he joined the training center and there, he weighs 95 kg, revealed Pascal Donnadieu’s assistant in Nanterre.

Another weakness is that he is prone to injuries. In Nanterre, a crack in his fibula sidelined him for eight weeks in 2020. This season at Asvel, Victor Wembanyama experienced three complications: a bone contusion in his right shoulder, a fracture in his finger, and an injury to muscular psoas which prevented him from participating in the finals of the French championship. Even if this could cool the interest of certain recruiters in the NBA, few North American teams will not take the gamble of betting on him. And this is from 2023, the year from which he will be eligible to be recruited in the big league. 

After being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2023, Victor Wembanyama was set to have one of the most hyped NBA debuts of all time. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had this to say: “Victor, he’s been through this. There’s been a lot of hype around him for a long time and he doesn’t let it affect him. He’s very mature, he’s very emotionally strong, his priorities are in order, he’s very professional already, so he’ll just come to play. We’re looking forward to watching Victor in his first real NBA game.”

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