Victor Wembanyama has been hailed as the most-hyped NBA prospect since LeBron James. 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. The ‘surreal’ debut showed his potential in glimpses, but the promise is there.
He takes the court again Friday night against the Houston Rockets as he tries to improve upon his relatively quiet debut. The game tips off at 8 p.m. ET on local broadcast in market or NBA League Pass.
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.
This embedded content is not available in your region.
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.
How to watch Victor Wembanyama’s NBA games
Wembanyama will play his second regular-season NBA game on Friday night when the San Antonio Spurs face the Houston Rockets at 8 p.m. ET on local broadcast in market or on NBA League Pass.
📺 Here’s how to watch Wembanyama and NBA games this season.
Stream every out-of-market game
NBA League Pass
Here’s a look at how some of the most hyped players in recent NBA history — who were all obviously drafted No. 1 overall — fared in their regular-season debuts:
C Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
Oct. 30, 2002, at Indiana (Pacers 91, Rockets 82): 0 points (0-of-1), 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls in 10:36 minutes
G/F LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Oct. 29, 2003, at Sacramento (Kings 106, Cavaliers 92): 25 points (12-of-20), 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals in 42:50 minutes
C Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
Oct. 28, 2008, at Sacramento (Lakers 96, Trail Blazers 76): 0 points (0-of-4), 5 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers in 12:51 minutes
PG Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Oct. 28, 2008, vs. Milwaukee (Bulls 108, Bucks 95): 11 points (3-of-9), 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 turnovers in 32:12 minutes
PF/C Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
Oct. 31, 2012, vs. San Antonio (Spurs 99, Hornets 95): 21 points (6-of-12, 9-of-9 FTs), 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block in 29:04 minutes
F Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
Jan. 22, 2020, vs. San Antonio (Spurs 121, Pelicans 117): 22 points (8-of-11, 4-of-4 3-pointers), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers in 18:18 minutes
Victor Wembanyama’s ‘surreal’ debut shows his potential in glimpses, but the promise is there
SAN ANTONIO — It felt like everything for the show, and the show was big.
A billboard hung right off the freeway headed into San Antonio’s Frost Bank Center, with Victor Wembanyama having his arms stretched out wide.
No word if it was actually life-sized.
Everything was primped and prepared for Wembanyama to step into his destiny, to announce to the world how easy this transition would be to regular-season basketball.
You saw it … in glimpses. It had starts and fits and nearly finished with a flurry before things went slightly awry.
Some of it was Wembanyama himself, sticking his hands in the cookie jar one too many times, putting himself on the bench for most of the second half. Some of it was the Dallas Mavericks, or most notably Luka Dončić being unwilling to accommodate his Texas neighbors, and a little bit of it was the Spurs players being unable to locate Wembanyama in the final three minutes after it was clear he had it going.
It’s only Game 1 of 82, and while so much was riding on Wembanyama’s debut, there are still so many steps to take, places to go. Wembanyama shook off an uneven start to unleash in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 15 points and adding five rebounds, two steals and a block in 23 minutes.
🔗 Read more from Vincent Goodwill from San Antonio on Wembanyama’s debut.
Victor Wembanyama is here with the NBA hype and comparisons growing by the day
Nobody does hype better than the NBA, utilizing every avenue to promote its current and future stars.
Oftentimes, the trailer makes the movie look better than it is. There’s been too many cases to count, too many laughable instances of players not being worth the paper their posters were plastered over NBA-sanctioned canvases.
But in the case of Victor Wembanyama, no amount of preparation could ready the basketball world for the journey it is about to embark on.
It starts Wednesday night against Dallas, in a friendly atmosphere to be sure but the anticipation is from all directions.
The buttoned-up Spurs couldn’t hide Wembanyama even if they tried to, and it won’t be long before he truly takes center stage — if he hasn’t done so already.
Some 15 scouts made their way to check out the phenom’s last preseason game, under the “guise” of checking out who the Spurs could be cutting to get under their roster limit.
Even team officials who haven’t seen him play in person wanted to make the official pilgrimage, because as real as Summer League can be relative to watching him on film, it’s nothing compared to even preseason ball.
And that’s nothing compared to Game 1 of 82, the first in what’s sure to be a traveling circus.
Because Wembanyama might very well exceed the hype, an almost impossible task.
🔗 Read more from Vincent Goodwill on Wembanyama’s expectations.
NBA rookie watch: Victor Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren
If the NBA preseason is any indication of what the regular season holds for this rookie class, this might be the most impactful first-year group of players to hit the league in recent memory.
Victor Wembanyama is the early favorite for the top rookie honor, but Chet Holmgren made his presence known when the pair went head-to-head for the first time on Oct. 9. The duo put on a show with Holmgren and the Thunder getting the win, 122-121. Wembanyama finished with 20 points, five rebounds and two steals in only 19 minutes while Holmgren posted 21 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. It’s clear this is a budding rivalry. When asked by reporters after the game if the two had a relationship off the court, Wembanyama simply answered, “No.”
Pending any injuries that keep him off the court for an extended period, Wembanyama is expected to be the top rookie this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft came in with some lofty expectations and more than delivered in four preseason games.
He seems to do something new and unbelievable every time he hits the court, leaving players on opposing team shaking their heads in disbelief. In the most recent win over the Warriors, Wembanyama blocked Klay Thompson’s 3-point attempt at the top of the key and finished with a dunk at the other end. In the same half, he also hit a fadeaway 3-pointer off the dribble and converted on an impossible and-1 while falling out of bounds behind the backboard.
“He’s like an NBA2K cheat code,” Stephen Curry said of Wembanyama last year. “Every point guard wants to be 7-foot and he’s a great talent and plays a very entertaining game.”
It’s not even the regular season yet and some of the best players in the league are already asking to swap jerseys with Wembanyama. Chris Paul, an 18-year vet, was seen exchanging jerseys in the tunnel after the game Friday. It’s a trend that will most likely continue all season long.
🔗 Read more from Krysten Peek on the top rookies to watch this season.
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.
Read more on Wembanyama:
Wemby Watch: Tracking everything you need to know about the Spurs rookie