The hype surrounding projected number one draft pick Victor Wembanyama is definitely the biggest since LeBron James in 2003.
“With Wembanayama, we will likely have to recalibrate similar to the way we reassessed the game after we watched Stephen Curry, time after time, launching and making shots five feet behind the 3-point line,” The Athletic’s David Aldridge wrote. “In the first 60-plus years of NBA history it wasn’t feasible to take that shot — until it was. Curry changed the geometry of the court. Wembanyama threatens to alter the game in a similar way – vertically rather than horizontally. If he is successful, the game will look radically different when he’s done playing.”
When interviewed, his poise is well beyond his years, so the 19-year-old isn’t fazed by any of the hype.
“No,” Wembanyama answered when asked if the expectations of career get to him. “I don’t let this, all this stuff, get into my head because I got such high expectations for myself that I’m immune to all this stuff. So I really don’t care.”
The Spurs hold the number one pick and they have literally hit the jackpot because the superstar is projected to pump an extra half a billion dollars into the franchise’s value.
The 7-foot-5 Frenchman thinks he’s won the jackpot himself as he says he’s “lucky” that he’s going to be drafted in San Antonio.
“For me, San Antonio is synonymous with winning,” Wembanyama said at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference. “When, on lottery night, when the Spurs got the No. 1 pick, I was just thinking, I was feeling lucky that they had pick as a franchise that has that culture and that experience in winning and making, creating good players. So I really can’t wait.”
The Spurs are quite a popular team in France due to players like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.
Spurs big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan were also number overall picks in their drafts and Wemby is ready and motivated to forge a similar path.
“You saw me play at 13, and I’ve played the same,” Wembanyama said.” I’ve been playing like that. And honestly I’m just trying to be myself. You said I’m a hybrid. It’s just I’m myself.
“No one is going to stop me from dribbling the ball, bringing the ball up and shooting 3s. Nobody is going to stop me from doing that. Even though sometimes coaches in my career would try to stop me from doing that because they had to win right now. So it was really an everyday fight to stay true to myself, and, yeah, this is something that I’m never going to lose, for sure.”
Even if the young star doesn’t live up to expectations, one league executive believes he will be known as one of the best players in history anyway.
“He’s just a breathtaking prospect,” a veteran executive told Aldridge. “Even if he never becomes as good as all the hype, he’s still going to end up being a top-10 player in the league. He isn’t going to bust or never make an All-Star team or something like that. I said, when I saw him in Vegas, and I can’t guarantee this happens, but he has a chance to one day be the best player in the league. Now, how many guys entering in any draft can you say that about? Every draft doesn’t hold a (top) guy with that kind of potential. And it seems like, from afar, it’s important to him to realize that upside.”
The NBA draft begins Thursday night at Barclays Center and with it, we’ll likely witness the beginning of a never-before-seen NBA career.