Basketball America has been warned, indeed, a “Wembamania” is coming. The phenomenon Victor Wembanyama is more than ever the favorite to be the N.1 of the next draft: still ultra-dominant, he guided the Metropolitans to success (112-106), on Thursday, in a friendly against the G-League Ignite, with 36 points , 11 rebounds and 4 blocks to his credit, after the 37 points on Tuesday.
The 18-year-old Frenchman, whom only observers had been following for a few years, already announcing the phenomenon to come, confirmed that all the good guys thought of him for their first steps in the United States, which he dreams of conquering. All in front of some 200 representatives, general managers, recruiters, from the thirty NBA franchises, who came to scrutinize him.
“A wonderful experience”
An unprecedented promotion operation for a “prospect” (hope), also non-American, which added enormous pressure on his young shoulders, given the expectations placed on him. But in two games, like so many shows of force, carried out by insolent talent and extraordinary physical abilities, he managed to get everyone to agree, while he was extremely comfortable and mature in the face of media madness.
“This experience was unique, magnificent. I don’t know how it could have been better,” Wembanyama commented at a post-match news conference, which was his second in less than 48 hours. And it was a rematch against the Ignite, a team made up in part of young talents with the possibility of being selected by a franchise like him in 2023 and who had won (122-115) in the first round.
Beware of “tanking”, warns the NBA boss
This time, Wembanyama not only shone more individually, but led his team to victory. After his 37 points (7/11 from behind the arc) and 5 successful blocks on Tuesday, he is doing almost as well offensively, but showing himself to be even more active on both ends of the field, adding 4 assists to his bag. He also put on a show by dunking after an alley-oop started by Hugo Besson.
Above all, he was decisive in the last quarter, scoring 15 points that greatly contributed to the comeback of the Metropolitans, who trailed by twelve points at the start of this last act. His interception, the only one of the game, in the last second, and two free throws scored definitively sealed the victory of his team.
All under the gaze of his compatriot Rudy Gobert, who arrived as a neighbor from Las Vegas, twenty kilometers away, where the Blues center is doing some preseason practices at his new club, the Minnesota Timberwolves. “It’s really exciting, we’re lucky to have so much talent, we’ve never seen a player like Victor,” Gobert said into the microphone of ESPN, which broadcast the game live.
NBA boss Adam Silver has warned franchises that “tanking” — the practice of moving down the rankings to have a better chance of getting the No. 1 draft pick in the lottery — will not be tolerated: “I know a lot of teams are salivating.” forward, but everyone will have to fight regularly. »
What is clear is that the French “generational talent”, if not harmed, will be coveted as always. A franchise boss told ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski on condition of anonymity that drafting “Wemba” could add $500 million to the value of the lucky winner.
“Nothing done yet”
“I have known him since he was 13 years old, we knew he was going to be one of a kind. He is very mature, he knows where he wants to go. I don’t think there is a possible comparison,” added the one who intends to form a formidable indoor duo with him in the French team, during the next international events, namely the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. .
Meanwhile, Wembanyama’s main objective is in the United States, where he already arouses the admiration of NBA stars, in particular LeBron James (Lakers), who called him “alien” on Wednesday night.
“It’s an honor that great players talk about me like that, but that doesn’t change anything. I thought it was cool, but I have to stay focused on my goals. I haven’t achieved anything yet, I haven’t played an NBA game, I haven’t been drafted, ”he reacted impassively after the game.
June 22, 2023 is still a long way off, more than eight months. But so far his trajectory is perfect: Wembanyama has never been so well placed and in sight to become the first Frenchman in history to be selected first.