Victor Wembanyama has been hailed as the most-hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James. In his most recent outing, the San Antonio Spurs rookie finished with 11 points (4-of-10 from the field, 0-of-2 from 3), five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal but had five turnovers as the Spurs took a 123-83 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena.
The 19-year-old point-forward plays like no one else in the world with his staggering size (7-foot-4) and frame (nearly 8-foot wingspan). To see him take players off the dribble and step into 3-pointers from Stephen Curry range defies everything you would ever expect from a young player with his size. He’s most noticeable on the defensive end as a rim protector and effectively guarding wings off the pick-and-roll switch.
Wembanyama grew up in Le Chesnay, France, a suburb 15 miles outside of Paris. His mom, Elodie de Fautereau, played basketball at a high level and his father, Felix, was a professional high jumper and ran track. His older sister, Eve, also played basketball and won a gold medal with France at the 2017 U16 European Championship. As a child, Wembanyama played soccer and was an elite goalkeeper before giving it up to focus solely on basketball.
At just 14 years old, Wembanyama helped France’s JSF Nanterre U18 team become the French League runner-up, despite being three years younger than most of the players. Around this time, Wembanyama started to get noticed by other scouts around Europe. He was a lanky center who wasn’t afraid to shoot deep 3s, attack the lane off the perimeter and played the game differently than anyone else. It was clear early on he was going to be a special player with his size and skill set. Despite pushes to move to Barcelona, a bigger basketball city, Wembanyama opted to stay in France and continue his development, eventually playing for ASVEL Villeurbanne in the EuroLeague and the U19 French national team.
Every NBA scout was tuned in during the summer of 2021 to watch 7-foot Chet Holmgren, that year’s No. 2 overall pick, go head-to-head with Wembanyama in the FIBA U19 World Cup gold-medal game. Holmgren is known as an elite rim protector, but it was Wembanyama (a year younger than everyone on the court) who was incredible, recording eight blocks and adding 22 points in an MVP-caliber performance. Team USA barely edged France, 83-81, with Holmgren winning MVP honors and finishing with 10 points and five assists in 23 minutes. During the course of the tournament, Wembanyama set a FIBA World Cup record for blocked shots with 40, averaging 5.7 per game. Holmgren recorded only 19 blocks in the tournament.
“Never have I ever seen Chet Holmgren overshadowed physically like he was last year whenever the two met,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He practically can and does do all that Chet can, but is three inches taller, probably shoots it better from 3, may have a better feel as a passer and has a much better frame to develop than Chet.”
Wembanyama likely would have been the No. 1 overall pick in 2022 — and in most NBA draft classes. He’s the best young prospect in the world and is now the building block around which the San Antonio Spurs hope to chase another NBA championship.
How to watch Victor Wembanyama’s NBA games
Wembanyama next plays Tuesday at the Phoenix Suns. The game tips off at 10 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TNT.
📺 Here’s how to watch Wembanyama and NBA games this season.
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How Victor Wembanyama has fared in his rookie season
Oct. 29: Clippers 123, Spurs 83
In his third game, Wembanyama and the Spurs opened their first road trip of the season with a 123-83 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night at Crypto.com Arena. The Spurs never got into a rhythm as the Clippers took control early and coasted to the win. Wembanyama finished with 11 points (4-of-10 from the field, 0-of-2 from 3), five rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal but had five turnovers.
Oct. 27: Spurs 126, Rockets 122
In his second game, Wembanyama dominated the fourth quarter to tie the game late and force overtime, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a 126-122 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. Wembanyama finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist.
Oct. 25: Mavericks 126, Spurs 119
In his NBA debut, he was limited by foul trouble but still scored 15 points and added five rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block in the Spurs’ 126-119 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. The ‘surreal’ debut showed his potential in glimpses, but the promise is there, writes Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Vincent Goodwill.
Victor Vector: How Victor Wembanyama ranks among top NBA rookies in past 50 years
Here, we’ll track the San Antonio Spurs rookie’s weekly progress relative to the most anticipated prospects of the past 50 years, using Yahoo Sports’ own default fantasy basketball settings to rank their production.
The metrics (and the points awarded for each statistical category):
• Points scored (0.5)
• Field goals made (1)
• Field goals attempted (-0.45)
• Free throws made (1)
• Free throws attempted (-0.75)
• 3-pointers made (3)
• Rebounds (1.5)
• Assists (2)
• Steals (3)
• Blocks (3)
• Turnovers (-2)
It is a challenge to draw comparisons across eras, but it is a bit easier from the late 1970s on, after the NBA installed the 82-game season (1967), recognized blocks and steals (1973) and merged with the ABA (1976). All ranking systems are flawed, and the most notable vulnerability here is the 3-point advantage for modern players. We will find out if it all comes out in the wash. That is what the tracker is for.
🔗 Victor Vector rankings through Week 1: Where does Victor Wembanyama fall among all-time top NBA rookies?
Victor Wembanyama’s ‘surreal’ debut shows his potential in glimpses, but the promise is there
SAN ANTONIO — It felt like everything for the show, and the show was big.
A billboard hung right off the freeway headed into San Antonio’s Frost Bank Center, with Victor Wembanyama having his arms stretched out wide.
No word if it was actually life-sized.
Everything was primped and prepared for Wembanyama to step into his destiny, to announce to the world how easy this transition would be to regular-season basketball.
You saw it … in glimpses. It had starts and fits and nearly finished with a flurry before things went slightly awry.
Some of it was Wembanyama himself, sticking his hands in the cookie jar one too many times, putting himself on the bench for most of the second half. Some of it was the Dallas Mavericks, or most notably Luka Dončić being unwilling to accommodate his Texas neighbors, and a little bit of it was the Spurs players being unable to locate Wembanyama in the final three minutes after it was clear he had it going.
It’s only Game 1 of 82, and while so much was riding on Wembanyama’s debut, there are still so many steps to take, places to go. Wembanyama shook off an uneven start to unleash in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 15 points and adding five rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes.
🔗 Read more from Vincent Goodwill from San Antonio on Wembanyama’s debut.
Victor Wembanyama’s journey from France to the NBA
The day after the 2022 draft, Wembanyama was already atop Yahoo Sports’ 2023 mock draft rankings and stayed there through his ultimate selection.
“Right now, it’s Wembanyama and everyone else for the 2023 draft,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports in June 2022.
Meanwhile, Wembanyama and his French team, Metropolitans 92, traveled to the Las Vegas area to play two exhibition games against the G League Ignite and eventual No. 3 draft pick Scoot Henderson, in October 2022. The pair exceeded all expectations in the first game. Wembanyama scored 37 points, with seven 3-pointers, and recorded five blocks in 32 minutes. In the second game, he solidified his No. 1 draft prospect ranking with 36 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and four assists.
When the pingpong balls fell San Antonio’s way during the NBA Draft Lottery in May, it seemed poetic that head coach Gregg Popovich would get another opportunity to develop a generational talent.
After Wembanyama officially declared for the 2023 draft, his pro season in France continued. He skipped the NBA Draft Combine as Mets 92 made a run to the LNB Pro A Finals. Mets 92 were swept by Monaco in the Finals, a small reprieve for Wembanyama, who traveled to New York to prepare for the NBA Draft.
During draft week, Wembanyama got his first look at the bright lights and demands the NBA would entail. His pure joy at being selected No. 1 — no matter how far gone the conclusion was — highlighted the draft’s best moments. He also promised that he wouldn’t be “too tired” to play in the Las Vegas Summer League and said he couldn’t wait to have breakfast tacos in Texas.
At Summer League, all-day session tickets sold out in advance as fans wanted to get an early glimpse at Wembanyama. His debut wasn’t spectacular — nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks — but he made up for it with his second, and final, Summer League game.
After three long months, at least in Wembanyama hype time, the Spurs’ rookie played a (somewhat) meaningful NBA game, going head-to-head with Chet Holmgren in their preseason debuts. Wembanyama scored 20 points with five rebounds and two steals, and, of course, started what should be a long highlight reel this season. His three other preseason games kept the highlights coming until the conclusion with a photo so absurd, you just have to see it.
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