San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama intends to play for France's national team at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Based on the team's performance at last month's FIBA World Cup, his addition will be significant.
He grew up in Le Chesnay, France, a suburb 15 miles outside of Paris. Since being selected with the San Antonio Spurs' No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the 19-year-old has been a long way from home.
“Performing well at the Olympics would be a great story,” Wembanyama told French outlet L'equipe. “I’ll be present at the Olympics, and there’s no other goal than gold.”
He missed the World Cup to prepare for his first NBA season. Entering the World Cup as the reigning Olympic silver medalist, France was knocked out before the second round. Los Angeles Clippers forward and French national team veteran Nicolas Batum said the showing was such a letdown that he was "ashamed" and "scared to go home."
Wembanyama was similarly candid about the performance:
“The World Cup was very disappointing,” he told L'equipe. “But I have no judgment to make as I wasn’t there.”
Fresh off a long LNBA Pro A season in June, Wembanyama was adamant he was "not too tired" to make his NBA Summer League debut and play in the World Cup.
He made the decision to focus on his NBA team and Summer League later that month. After struggling in his first game, Wembanyama took over in his second showing with 27 points and had 12 rebounds and three blocks. He shot 9-of-14 from the field, and 2-of-4 from 3.
France will look forward to that kind of production from the 7-foot-4 19-year-old. While the French look to the young star at the Olympics, Team USA could be led by one of the NBA's most veteran players.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, 38, reportedly has a "strong" interest in playing for Team USA in Paris, and he's already recruiting. Fellow NBA stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Jayson Tatum are reportedly interested in joining James.
All of them will be back in action soon, with James, Durant and Curry featured in the opening-night doubleheader on Oct. 24.
Wembanyama will make his debut with the Spurs against the Dallas Mavericks and Luka Dončić at 9:30 p.m. ET Oct. 25 (ESPN).