Victor Wembanyama is the sensational 19 year-old who is set to be first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. If his growing reputation, based on his superb performances in professional French basketball, and the historic trends around first overall NBA draft picks are anything to go by, get used to hearing Wembanyama’s name, as his future looks very bright.
Some huge names have been first picks in the draft over the years, including Magic Johnson (1979 – Los Angeles Lakers), Patrick Ewing (1985 – New York Knicks), Larry Johnson (1991 – Charlotte Hornets), Shaquille O’Neal (1992 – Orlando Magic), Allen Iverson (1996 – Philadelphia 76ers) and LeBron James (2003 – Cleveland Cavaliers).
Only two players in the history of the game, however, have been drafted first overall having not previously played for a professional team in the United States, Chinese player Yao Ming in 2002 and Italy’s Andrea Bargnani in 2006. French national Wembanyama looks set to follow in the footsteps of Ming and Bargnani, but could we be about to see the start of an illustrious NBA journey for one of the next all-time greats?
That’s the talk that’s following ‘Wemby’ around thanks to his rise to prominence in the domestic French game, where he has been playing since making his pro debut as a 15 year-old for Nanterre 92, subsequently racking up more experience with ASVEL and Metropolitans 92.
In October last year, had the opportunity to play with his Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 teammates against two American teams near Las Vegas. This unprecedented ‘tour’ added to the Wembanyama hype, with the NBA later broadcasting the Boulogne-Levallois games on their website.
Wembanyama has already been praised by some of the biggest names in the sport, including Kevin Durant of the Phoenix Suns who told SI.com, “That type of talent and skill just puts a smile on your face if you play basketball. The league’s really in trouble when he comes in. I want to see how it plays out. Everybody has been excited about his arrival to the league so we’ll see what happens.”
The young Parisian is regarded as the ‘full package’ with superb technique, standing at 7ft 3in (2.21 m) and potentially still growing. In order to compete at the highest level in the NBA coaches and analysts believe he will need to gain muscle and bulk up from his current weight, which is approximately 209lbs (95kg).
LeBron James is pretty clear with his opinion on Wemby. James enthused, “Everyone has been using the term unicorn these last few years, but he’s more like an alien. No-one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but as fluid and graceful as he is out on the floor. He is for sure a generational talent.”
Sporting excellence clearly flows in the family for the Wembanyamas. Victor’s father Félix is a former long jumper, while his mother Élodie was herself basketball player and coached her children to a high level. His brother Oscar plays for ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne’s U18 team and his sister Eve is also a professional basketball player who was a U16 European champion in 2017.
It already seems certain that Wembanyama will be the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, which will take place on June 22nd. The San Antonio Spurs have the NBA’s first overall pick this year, whilst in 2022 it was the Orlando Magic and in 2021 the Detroit Pistons. In ’22 the Magic drafted Paolo Banchero and in ’21 it was Cade Cunningham who was picked by the Pistons.