NEW YORK — It's official. Victor Wembanyama is heading to San Antonio and joining Hall of Fame head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. The 7-foot-4 French phenom is the best prospect to hit the NBA since LeBron James 20 years ago. The Spurs have been planning for Wembanyama's arrival since May 16 when it was revealed they would get the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft for the third time in franchise history.
Wembanyama was poised and joyous throughout the week, but finally being selected No. 1 caused a slew of emotions.
"Hearing that sentence from Adam Silver, I've dreamed of it so much."
—Victor Wembanyama and his siblings were emotional after he was drafted No. 1 overall pic.twitter.com/YRlkTcMpbl
— ESPN (@espn) June 23, 2023
— NBA (@NBA) June 23, 2023
"I can't really describe it. It's still fresh. One of the best feelings of my life. Probably the best night of my life. I've been dreaming about this for so long. It's a dream come true. It's incredible," Wembanyama told reporters after being drafted.
The last two No. 1 picks the Spurs selected brought tremendous success to the organization. First, it was David Robinson in 1987 and then Tim Duncan 10 years later. All five of the franchise's NBA championships were won with either Robinson or Duncan, with the duo winning two together. Both are Hall of Famers and were part of the league's 75th anniversary team.
Wembanyama is the first No. 1 pick to ever come out of France and the first European player who didn't play NCAA college basketball to be selected first overall since 2006 when the Toronto Raptors picked Andrea Bargnani out of Italy. Wembanyama follows a long list of talented French players who have played in the NBA, including current Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, current Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes and former Spurs guard Tony Parker, who won four NBA titles.
Wembanyama led all players in the French LNB Pro A league in points (21.6), rebounds (10.4) and blocks (3.1) per game and was named the league MVP. His team, Metropolitans 92, made the LNB Pro A Finals where they were swept by Monaco just days before the NBA Draft.
Wembanyama said when he got the call from the Spurs' front office informing him that he'd be selected No. 1, it was "very, very casual" then quipped about his new head coach, Gregg Popovich.
"He's not intimidating yet, but I'm sure he's going to get intimidating when I see him in real life," Wembanyama said.
The Spurs big man also has a few things he's looking forward to upon arriving in San Antonio.
"Breakfast tacos. I've heard a lot about breakfast taco," he said. "I can't wait to wear my first Spurs jersey. Yeah, I can't wait. It's the start of such a great adventure. You never know what's going to happen, and this is what's exciting. That's it."
"Breakfast tacos...I've heard a lot about breakfast tacos." 🌮 👀
Wemby when asked what he's looking forward to 🔊
Watch on ABC/ESPN pic.twitter.com/c5YhRneR6n
— NBA (@NBA) June 23, 2023
2023 NBA Draft No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama's impressive résumé
Wembanyama has exceeded every expectation that has been put on him since he hit the scene at a young age. 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. From there, he played for Parker's professional squad, ASVEL Basket, before switching to the Metropolitans 92 this past season.
In two exhibition games in the Las Vegas area last October, Wembanyama averaged 36.5 points, 4.5 blocks and scored from all over the court against Scoot Henderson and the G League Ignite. He hit long, step-back 3s and grabbed impossibly high lobs for dunks in transition. In the first game, he had a season-high seven 3-pointers and added five blocks.
How Victor Wembanyama fits with the San Antonio Spurs
The young core of Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan are all 23 years old or younger. Wembanyama will be able to grow alongside this group and has already played with Sochan at a camp when they were 12 and 14 years old.
"It was at Tony Parker's gym in France," Sochan told Yahoo Sports in February. "He wasn't as big as he is now, but it's exciting to see what he's doing. I truly believe he's going to live up to everything and it's going to be exciting. He can add [to the Spurs] his energy, his versatility and the way he moves. He's so smooth and he's a one-of-one."
During his last year in France, Wembanyama made every player around him better, no matter what the rotation was. He has the tools offensively to spread the floor and draw the double-team and the size to find the open teammate when the defense collapses. Johnson led the Spurs in points last season with 22 points per game and Wembanyama will join 6-foot-11 forward Zach Collins in the frontcourt, adding much-needed length and rim protection in the lane.
Battle of the bigs: Victor Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren
A budding rivalry is brewing between San Antonio and the Oklahoma City Thunder with 7-foot-2 Chet Holmgren returning to the court this upcoming season. Holmgren will be eligible for all rookie honors in the 2023-24 season after sitting out his first year with a foot injury.
The pair have already gone head-to-head during the FIBA U19 World Cup where Wembanyama recorded 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks but fouled out in the fourth quarter. Holmgren earned MVP tournament honors as Team USA beat France, 83-81. Holmgren finished with 10 points and five assists in the final game.
"I'm not going to give my scouting report on him since I'll be playing him soon once he gets to the league," Holmgren told Yahoo Sports before the 2022 NBA Draft. "He's definitely talented and someone that's going to be a problem once he hits the NBA."
The Wembanyama era has officially begun and all eyes will be on him when he hits an NBA court for the first time in July during NBA Summer League.