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Who is the new star of the NBA Victor Wembanyama?

The basketball phenomenon commonly known as Wemby has taken the NBA by storm and only looks to be getting better.

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ARTICLE BY

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READING TIME

Less than 1 minute Minutes

Victor Wembanyama of basketball team the San Antonio Spurs is the talk of the NBA world. Wemby, as he’s popularly known, is the tallest player in the current NBA roster – sharing that seven-foot-four-inch height title with Houston Rockets and Serbian baller Boban Marjanović. He is also expected to become the next basketball sensation. 

Before Wembanyama entered the NBA draft as the first pick in June 2023, Will Leitch, contributing editor for New York Magazine, described him as “a mix of sort of Magic Johnson, Steph Curry, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.” Since 1980, the #1 Pick has gone to legends like Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson. But the hype for Wembanyama was as big as LeBron James being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. 

[See more: In conversation with NBA champion and Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade]

The 20-year-old has already made multiple strides in the NBA, with certain plays that leave fans asking “How did he do that?” Wembanyama is known for his ball-handling ability, shooting skills and has already been dubbed “one of the NBA’s top defenders” on account of a towering presence like this

While most tall athletes are known for slower reaction times and agility, given their height, the opposite is almost true for Wembanyama. After the Spurs’ 120-104 preseason win over the Miami Heat, NBA fans began calling him “a cheat code.”

From his athletic parents to breaking records in his first year, here’s all you need to know about Victor Wembanyama, aka Wemby.

What is Wembanyama’s background? 

Born in the western suburbs of Paris in Le Chesnay, France, Wembanyama was brought up by athletic parents. His father Félix Wembanyama was a former track and field athlete, and his mother Elodie de Fautereau was a former basketball athlete and now coach. They both had their fair share in training Wembanyama through their respective sports. In an interview with Slam, Wembanyama explained that his father helped him improve his running abilities, while his mother guided him through his basketball journey. 

“I mean, I had the choice and I still have the choice to play or not play basketball, but basketball has always been around,” Wembanyama told Slam in 2022. “I can’t avoid it in my family.” 

During his younger days, Wembanyama played football (frequently as a goalkeeper) and practised judo, before moving into basketball. Wembanyama is the middle child of three siblings. His elder sister Eve, 22, is also a basketball athlete and competes for Monaco in the Women’s League 2 and won the gold medal in 2017 in the FIBA U16 Women’s European Championship with the France team. 

His 16-year-old brother, Oscar was a talented handball player before shifting his talent to basketball, which he has also proved to be good at. Having played for just a year and a half, Oscar has already won the U15 national title in France in 2022 and has been signed to Victor’s former junior team ASVEL U18, according to Inside The Spurs. In a few years, we might see another Wembanyama make the NBA drafts. 

“I don’t particularly feel in [Victor’s] shadow,” Oscar told Inside The Spurs. “My goal is not to do exactly like him but to write my own story, as beautifully as possible.”

Who is the new star of the NBA Victor Wembanyama?
Wembanyama dribbling against Chicago Bulls Chicago Bulls on 21 December 2023 – Photo by Joel Lerner/Xinhua

When was Wembanyama first scouted? 

According to the Olympics website, Michael Allard, the head coach of the Nanterre basketball team, went to watch a U11 game in Versailles. His eyes were drawn to Wembanyama, whom he mistook for the assistant coach because of the youngster’s height. Impressed by Wemby’s skills, Allard called the technical director of the U11 programme at JSF Nanterre and the team went on to sign Wembanyama. The young man played his way through the youth ranks and made his professional debut for the club in the 2019 EuroCup.

How much does Wembanyama earn? 

​​Wembanyama signed a four-year rookie contract for US$55.2 million. A rookie contract works in a “2+2” format, according to Hoop Dojo, which means the first two years are guaranteed and the player will earn their full salary even if appearances are waived. The next two years are optional depending on the team. According to Forbes, Wembanyama is set to earn US$12,200,000 in his first season.

From a Nike deal to becoming Louis Vuitton’s new ambassador, ​​Wembanyama has it all coming his way. Bloomberg even reported that the French star is on course to become a basketball billionaire through his multiple contracts.

His agent Bouna Ndiaye told ESPN that he hopes to keep his star athlete focused, saying that he’s already rejected some million-dollar deals to concentrate on basketball. 

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James advises the young Frenchmen to “stay true” to the game. “That’s one thing for me,” James said. “I always tell myself, ‘I’m going to commit to the game. I’m going to train. I’m going to prepare myself physically, mentally, spiritually, to give to the game’ if you want to be great.”

Wembanyama (centre, black jersey) goes to basket during the 2023-2024 NBA regular season match between San Antonio and Los Angeles Clippers on 29 October 2023 - Photo by Ringo Chiu/Xinhua
Wembanyama (centre, black jersey) goes to basket during the 2023-2024 NBA regular season match between San Antonio and Los Angeles Clippers on 29 October 2023 – Photo by Ringo Chiu/Xinhua

What are some of the records Wembanyama has already broken?

In December 2023, Wembanyama made history by becoming the youngest player with a 20-20 game. The Spurs may have lost 128-112 to the Chicago Bulls, but Wembanyama recorded an exceptional 21 points and 20 rebounds. 

“It doesn’t really have value in a loss,” he told NBA. “But it is definitely an achievement. I hope I can look back at it as a good performance someday.”

American basketballer Dwight Howard was the previous record-holder at 19 years and 38 days old, with the Frenchman taking the lead by just four days. Howard, who also recorded the same amount of points and rebounds as Wembanyama, went on X saying, “Broke my record! This guy is already great! Love to see it.”

In fact, Wembanyama notched up several NBA firsts in a single week. On February 13, Wembanyama recorded a second “rare triple-double” of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a win against the Toronto Raptors. In over 40 years, only two other players have such stats: David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon, according to StatMuse. Two days after his last record, Wembanyama recorded his 1000th career point in a loss against the Dallas Mavericks. He became just the third player to do so in his first 50 career games in NBA history, joining the likes of David Robinson (1989-90) and Shaquille O’Neal (1992-93), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

What have star names said about Wembanyama? 

In a recent conversation with Dwyane Wade, Macao News asked the former NBA champion and Hall of Famer to name a current NBA player he wishes he could have played with. Without hesitation he said Wemby, describing him as “an alien.” 

“I got a chance to play with a few guys like that,” Wade said. “I played with Shaq, who was one and LeBron. So I’d love to play with another one and that would be Wemby.”

One big name Wembanyama has been compared to often is his idol and three-time Olympic gold winner Kevin Durant. The 35-year-old had high praise for the young star, but also joked he is glad to not have to deal with him in the long run because of his age. “Man, that dude can achieve anything he wants in this game,” Durant said. “He’s only getting more comfortable as time goes on. … It’s just insane how dominant he’s going to be.” 

[See more: Will Kylian Mbappe go to Real Madrid? All you need to know]

Wembanyama has long been a supporter of football club Paris Saint-Germain and French football star Kylian Mbappe. The basketball athlete even sent his wishes to Mbappe, who is said to be moving to Real Madrid this summer. Mbappe had nothing but praise for his French compatriot. “You don’t have to be a top athlete to know that this guy is special,” Mbappe told Sportskeeda. “What we can do is accompany him, support him, admire what he has already done and what he will do in the future.”

Keep up with the once-in-a-generation talent that is Victor Wembanyama here

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