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He is only 18 years old and already has the whole NBA at his feet: Victor Wembanyama is the new nugget of the basketball world. Gigantic (2.21 m), hyper talented, the French hopeful burst the screen during two exhibition matches in the United States. Even LeBron James is impressed by this “alien”. Portrait of a prodigy in the making.
The beginning of October is usually not a very exciting time for basketball in the United States, birthplace of the orange ball: the new NBA season has not yet started and fans are chomping at the bit. brake.
However, even without the NBA to get their teeth into, Americans and all basketball enthusiasts have been thrilled over the past three days… for an 18-year-old “little” Frenchman, resident of the Metropolitans 92, the Levallois-Perret club (suburb de Paris) playing in the French championship. His name: Victor Wembanyama. Across the Atlantic, the press is already talking about “Wembamania”. The American magazine Slam, bible of basketball, devoted its front page to this prodigy “who came from France to shake up the NBA”.
If the general public discovers it, assiduous followers already know for a long time that there is, in France, an exceptional gifted person in training. Since adolescence, Victor Wembanyama has been presented as a future super crack. A promise called to flourish in the land of Uncle Sam.
It is for this reason that the Metropolitans were invited to Las Vegas (Nevada) for two matches against the G-League Ignite, a minor league team; America wanted to see “Wemby” with its own eyes as soon as possible, while waiting for him to arrive in the NBA. The Metropolitans accepted while the French championship is in full swing. And it is an understatement to say that his phenomenon shone.
“A generational talent” for “King James”
On Wednesday, October 5, more than 70 media flocked to the Dollar Loan Center, a sports complex in Henderson, on the outskirts of Vegas, to attend the show. The 30 NBA teams were also on the spot. We counted some 200 managers and other recruiters, eager to observe the number 1 of the Metropolitans. Victor Wembanyama did not miss the opportunity to display all his talent. If his team lost its first match (122-115), he shone by scoring 37 points and making 5 blocks.
The wonder was even stronger Thursday by leading his team this time to victory (112-106) with 36 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. An XXL performance that suits his profile, his game and the excitement he always arouses.
Culminating at 2.21 m, with a wingspan of 2.43 m, Victor Wembanyama shines as much at the pivot position as as a strong winger. This is one of its characteristics that makes it so strong. To his gigantic size, the Frenchman with Congolese origins adds exceptional ease and speed. LeBron James, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, is won over.
“He’s an alien,” simply commented the Los Angeles Lakers player. “No one has ever seen someone like that. To be so tall while being so fluid and graceful on the pitch. It’s a generational talent,” continued ‘King James’. Words that weigh when they come out of the mouth of the double Olympic champion and quadruple NBA champion.
“He is able to do what normal players cannot do. It’s talent”, comments Vincent Collet, coach of the Metropolitans and coach of the France team. That’s Victor Wembanyama: a rare alloy, able to shine in defense and attack, able to defend like Rudy Gobert and score like Kevin Durant.
The first Frenchman number one in the draft in June 2023?
Rudy Gobert, the pivot of the Minnesota Timberwolves, came to witness the prowess of his compatriot on Thursday. With a smile, he confided to “feeling small” next to Victor Wembanyama, who dominates him by 5 centimeters. At the microphone of the ESPN channel, “Gobzilla” participated in the concert of praise: “We are lucky to have such talent, we have never seen a player like Victor.”
“I’ve known him since he was 13, we knew he was going to be unique,” continued Rudy Gobert. Called for the preparation of the Blues for Euro 2022, “Wemby” had to withdraw due to injury. The French team is impatient to be able to count on him, as the Olympic Games loom in Paris in less than two years.
Before this meeting, if all continues to go well, there will be another crucial moment, checked for a while on the calendar of the native of Chesnay (Yvelines): June 22, 2023, date of the next NBA draft, stock market during which the franchises choose the new talents who will discover the North American league.
Victor Wembanyama is expected to be selected number one. Of course, the game is not over, and a lot can happen between now and then. And the American Scott Henderson, another diamond born in 2004, also has serious arguments to put forward. But Victor Wembanyama has certainly scored points over the past three days. He has a good chance of becoming, in eight and a half months, the first Frenchman number one in the draft.
Serene, satisfied with this small jump to the United States, the interested party keeps a cool head despite this cascade of praise. “It’s an honor to have great players talk about me like this, but it doesn’t change anything. I thought it was cool, but I have to stay focused on my goals. I haven’t achieved anything yet, I didn’t play an NBA game, I wasn’t drafted,” he recalled. In fact, that’s correct. But make no mistake about it: Victor Wembanyama was a hit during this test, and the future belongs to him.