Andrew LopezESPN5 minutes to read
The era of Victor Wimpanyama officially began in San Antonio, as The Spurs made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday.
Wimpanyama, a 7-foot-5 French phenomenon with an 8-foot wingspan, walked onstage at New York’s Barclays Center to shake hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and officially celebrate the start of his new career.
The 19-year-old was crying When speaking with ESPN’s Monica McNutt Shortly after being selected.
“It achieves something I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” said Wimpanyama. “Hearing this sentence from Adam Silver, I dreamed about it so much, I must cry.”
Wembanyama is considered by many to be a generational talent – a player who can defend and play over the rim but move with such fluidity that he can also hit three putts back from one leg.
When the Spurs won Wimpanyama’s draft by winning the lottery on May 16, Peter J. Holt, the Spurs’ managing partner, jumped gleefully from his seat on the stage inside Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.
On Thursday night, Tottenham coach Gregg Popovich credited Wimpanyama’s parents for how they raised him to handle the enormous pressure that has been put on him thus far.
“He has a great disposition, a good combination of intellectual ability and emotional intelligence at the same time,” said Popovich. “He understands what the hype is about. He understands all the attention he’s getting, but he still welcomes it, and deals with it. … So, I think he understands there’s a way to deal with that responsibility and still make people feel somewhat close to him.” Therefore, he does not need much advice in this area.”
Popovic said Wimpanyama would play for Tottenham in the summer league but he did not know how far. San Antonio will play the California Classic in Sacramento on July 3. This event begins four days before the start of the Las Vegas League, in which all NBA teams participate.
“Like I said before, I only spoke to him on the phone a few times so I had to get a better feel for where his head was,” Popovich said. “He spoke to his people who have trained him his whole life. They’ve been with our people, and we have to make those decisions once we’re together. But he’ll be there at some point.”
In October Wembanyama announced his presence on the national stage during two exhibition games in Las Vegas with Metropolitans 92 competing with G League Ignite featuring both Wembanyama and Ignite guard Scoot Henderson.
Wimpanyama scored 37 points, 4 rebounds and 5 blocks in the first half and followed that up with 36 points and 11 rebounds in the second half.
During the LNB Pro A regular season, Wembanyama averaged 20.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game, leading the league in all three categories. Wimpanyama was named the league’s Most Valuable Player and led the Metropolitans 92 to the Ligue 1 Finals this season.
“People talk about generational talent, and they only think about skill on the field,” Spurs general manager Brian Wright said on May 16, “but it’s bigger than that, his ability to be a great teammate, his ability to think about the game, his unique challenges, “You see him doing things you wouldn’t expect someone to do. His approach, his professionalism. When you use the word generational talent, it goes beyond your ability to put the ball in the basket. And he’s unique in many ways.”
This is the third time the Spurs have won the NBA lottery and earned the right to a No. 1 pick. They’ve had great success with the other two picks – David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997, both of whom have played their entire careers with the Spurs and are considered to be among the best Great men of all time.
Now, Wimpanyama is starting his career with the coach that finished with Robinson and Duncan played his entire NBA career under Popovich, the winningest coach in NBA history.
Popovich said on Thursday that Wimpanyama will have a target on his back and it has to be himself and not someone else – not LeBron James, not Kobe Byrant, not Duncan.
“He’s Victor and that’s what we want him to be,” said Popovich.
Under Popovich, the Spurs have made 22 consecutive trips to the playoffs from 1998 to 2019, which is tied for the longest streak in NBA history (matching that of the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers from 1950 to 1971).
But in the past four seasons, the team hasn’t been able to finish above . 500, going 32-39, 33-39, 34-48 and then 22-60 last season. However, being knocked out during the 2022-23 season gave Tottenham a 14.0% chance of winning first place.
Wimpanyama joins a Tottenham team that had been relying heavily on youth players a season ago. All of the Spurs’ top five scorers were 25 or younger, not including last year’s ninth-ranked pick, Jeremy Suchan, who averaged 11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in 56 games.
Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Malachy Branham and Suchan help form the core of what San Antonio moves forward. The Spurs also have 28 try-out selections, including 11 first-round players, over the next six seasons.
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