On Wednesday night, French sensation Victor Wembanyama will play in his first NBA game when the Spurs welcome the Dallas Mavericks.
Widely regarded as the most exciting NBA prospect since LeBron James, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft has dazzled fans for several years in France with his absurd abilities.
Standing at seven foot four inches with an eight-foot wingspan, the 19-year-old Wembanyama possesses all the attributes you would expect for an NBA player of his size: shot blocking, rebounding and a threat around the rim.
However, it’s his speed, fluidity of movement, silky handles and shooting combined with the height that make him such an anomaly. Never in NBA history has a man of Wembanyama’s size moved like the Frenchman.
One moment during the Spurs’ preseason game against the Golden State Warriors showcased this movement perfectly.
When Steph Curry passed the ball to Andrew Wiggins, who was standing outside the three-point line, Wembanyama had both of his feet in the paint and it looked like a wide open shot for the Warriors player.
However, with just one step and a jump, Wembanyama blocked Wiggins’ three-point attempt.
These moments explain why the teenager is regularly dubbed a “cheat code.”
There have been times that Wembanyama has struggled in preseason, an entirely normal process for even the greatest rookies to go through as they find their feet against NBA opposition, but the highlights have unquestionably outweighed those difficult moments.
Becoming the best
A career in sports always seemed likely for Wembanyama.
His father was a high jumper, his mother was a former basketball player who is now a coach and his two siblings – older sister Eve and younger brother Oscar – are basketball players.
Even his grandfather, Michel De Fautereau, played for Paris University Club in the 1960s in the French topflight.
When he was young, Wembanyama tried many sports, including judo and football, as well as basketball.
But his first step in the career he’d eventually come to blossom in happened by chance.
The coach of basketball club Nanterre 92, Michaël Allard, happened to be watching an Under-11 match in which Wembanyama was playing.
Allard’s attention was drawn to an assistant coach on the bench – or so he thought. The assistant coach was in fact an 11-year-old Wembanyama and when Allard realized his mistake, he called the technical director of the Under-11 program at the French club to inform them of this prospect he’d discovered.
Wembanyama was immediately recruited by Nanterre where he moved up the youth ranks and learned the game as he dived head-first into the sport.
How to watch
In the US, the Spurs vs. the Mavericks will be nationally televised on ESPN, while international viewers can watch on NBA League Pass.