Victor Wembanyama has been hailed as the most-hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James. In his latest outing, Wembanyama scored 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals as the San Antonio Spurs dropped their third NBA in-season tournament game and were eliminated on Friday.
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.
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How Victor Wembanyama has fared in his rookie season
Nov. 17: Kings 129, Spurs 120
In the NBA in-season tournament, Wembanyama scored 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and two steals, but the Spurs lost 129-120 to the Kings on Friday at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. The loss eliminated the Spurs from title contention in the IST.
Nov. 14: Thunder 123, Spurs 87
In a matchup of two heralded rookies, it was Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder who came out on top in a 123-87 win on Tuesday at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City. Wembanyama scored eight points on 4-of-15 from the field and went 0-of-3 from 3-point range. He added 14 rebounds, a career high, two assists and two blocks. Holmgren scored nine points with seven rebounds, three assists and one block. The Wembanyama-Holmgren matchup didn't need fireworks to show the intrigue is just beginning, writes Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Vincent Goodwill from Oklahoma City.
Nov. 12: Heat 118, Spurs 113
Wembanyama had a quieter night in a 118-113 loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. He posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, adding seven assists, one block and one steal in 34 minutes. He went 8-of-22 from the field and 2-of-9 from 3-point range.
Nov. 10: Timberwolves 117, Spurs 110
Wembanyama scored 29 points (12-of-21 from the field, 3-of-7 from 3) to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and one steal as the Spurs lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 117-110, in an NBA in-season tournament game on Friday at Frost Bank Center in San Antonio. The Spurs are 0-1 in in-season tourney play.
Nov. 8: Knicks 126, Spurs 105
In his first game at Madison Square Garden, Wembanyama struggled to find his shot, starting 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-3 from distance. He finished with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists and one block in 30 minutes as the Spurs lost, 126-105, to the Knicks on Wednesday. It was a reminder that he's just getting started.
Nov. 6: Pacers 152, Spurs 111
In their first back-to-back games of the season, Wembanyama played 21 minutes and scored 13 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked two shots as the San Antonio Spurs lost to the Indiana Pacers, 152-111, on Monday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Nov. 5: Raptors 123, Spurs 116 (OT)
The Spurs played their second overtime game of the young season after letting a big lead slip away. Wembanyama scored 20 points (7-of-16 from the field, 2-of-7 from 3) and had nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists as the Spurs dropped an overtime game, 123-116, to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
Nov. 2: Spurs 132, Suns 121
The young Spurs showed no backdown against the Suns after getting the thrilling last-second win earlier in the week. The Spurs took a large lead early in the game and held off a fourth-quarter Suns rally to win 132-121 on Thursday at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. Wembanyama posted the best game of his young career: 38 points (15-of-26 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3), 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal in 34 minutes.
Oct. 31: Spurs 115, Suns 114
The Spurs turned Halloween night into a spooky affair for the Phoenix Suns as they rallied with a last-second bucket to win 115-114 on Tuesday at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. Wembanyama scored 18 points (6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-6 from 3) to go with eight rebounds and four blocks.
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 (OT)
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.
NBA Rookie Power Rankings 1.0: Welcome to the Victor Wembanyama show
We're fewer than 10 games into the season, a new in-season tournament is underway and (no surprise here) Victor Wembanyama is must-watch basketball every time the San Antonio Spurs are playing. Some of the best players in the NBA are in awe when they face the 7-foot-4 French phenom with an 8-foot wingspan and offensive skill set of a seasoned NBA guard.
Some rookies are finding their rhythm early on and outperforming their draft stock while others are still adjusting to the speed and physicality of the NBA. Here's the first look at Yahoo Sports' rookie rankings for the 2023-24 season:
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 Wembanyama-Chet Holmgren matchup didn't need fireworks to show the intrigue is just beginning
OKLAHOMA CITY — They didn’t guard each other but they didn’t have to be in each other’s airspace the whole night — each knew where the other was, almost at all times.
“Skinny Bowl I” was highly anticipated everywhere except for the two franchises that have more similarities than differences, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, and their hyped-but-worth-it rookies, Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren, didn’t exactly light up the night in their first official matchup against one another.
The final tally in Oklahoma City’s 123-87 win at Paycom Center didn’t read like two future Hall of Famers: Seven points, 11 rebounds, seven assists for one, and 14 points, six rebounds and two assists for the other.
Wait, those were the stats for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in their first tilt, some 20 years ago in Cleveland. The two rookies who were about to embark on a star-studded journey, barnstorming across the NBA and international gyms, began with a dud.
So yes, this was somewhat predictable even if the Wembanyama-Holmgren preseason matchup produced fireworks. Holmgren finished with nine points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 30 minutes. Wembanyama had a couple more highlights but had a dull night of his own, with eight points, 14 rebounds, two assists and two blocks (one on Holmgren).
Victor Wembanyama's Madison Square Garden debut is a reminder that he's just getting started
NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden had not hosted a pregame spectacle like this since the peak of Steph Curry mania. Instead of the pedestrian-sized sharpshooter splashing deep ball after deep ball, fans flocked and cameras gathered along the baseline to witness 7-foot-4 Victor Wembanyama take midtown Manhattan’s hallowed floor for the first time — 39 years to the day since Michael Jordan did the same.
The Frenchman was one of the last Spurs to emerge from San Antonio’s locker room, wearing long gray sweatpants and a white shooting sleeve. He worked along the perimeter, paying no mind to the wall of cellphones protruding from media members who bordered the baseline like hardcovers stacked on a bookshelf. When Wembanyama moved into the paint, he paused one repetition because the waiting Spurs staffer, who was supposed to stick an arm toward the rafters and contest the rookie’s hook, wasn’t paying full attention to the drill. But Wembanyama wanted the distraction in his sightline.
He saw plenty of hands and arms and bodies all evening against the Knicks. San Antonio is starting Wembanyama next to center Zach Collins, often placing him along the 3-point line to save his thin frame from a full load of bruises that come at this level. Yet no matter where his touches came, New York sent two and often three defenders in his midst, making the teenager look every bit the fledgling professional he is. Wembanyama started 0-5 and 0-3 from distance throughout his first 12 minutes of San Antonio’s eventual 126-105 loss Wednesday. He airballed a short jumper after sizing up Knicks center Mitchell Robinson on the left block. Then he air-mailed a triple from the top of the key.
🔗 Read more from Wembanyama's Madison Square Garden debut from Jake Fischer.
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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