Thursday’s NBA draft in Brooklyn had the distinct feel of a wedding.
It wasn’t just the happy families or an array of colorful, bespoke suits and dresses that populated the Barclays Center floor. Rather, it was the sense of inevitability that hung over Victor Wembanyama’s impending union with the San Antonio Spurs, owners of the first overall pick.
As the officiant, NBA commissioner Adam Silver dutifully called out the 7-foot-4 French phenom’s name to start the festivities, Wembanyama broke down in tears, and the two were eventually married.
The Spurs injected an ounce of mystery into the proceedings by using their full five-minute allowance before picking Wembanyama, who briefly worried San Antonio had cold feet.
“The longest five minutes of my life,” Wembanyama told reporters afterwards. “That’s when I started having butterflies, and that’s when I started seeing my family shut up. Everyone looks at their watch.
There was the feeling of inevitability of Victor Wembanyama’s impending union with Spurs
The teenager admitted to having ‘butterflies’ as he waited to be drafted first by Spurs
But there were no surprises when the 7ft 4in phenom was the first to hit the stage
“Then I got called and went to the back,” Wembanyama continued in relief. “I was congratulated by a lot of people there. I saw Adam Silver, shook his hand again, gave him a hug.
Soon, however, Wembanyama was reminded that this moment was predestined, both by his undeniable talent, size and athleticism, and by the fact that Spurs had won last month’s NBA Draft lottery.
‘So someone gave me this [Spurs jersey] – someone knew it was happening somehow,’ Wembanyama joked to reporters’ laughter.
And it wasn’t just Wembanyama and the Spurs who knew he would be taken first overall, following in the footsteps of other legendary San Antonio centers David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
Several participants in Thursday’s draft in Brooklyn were seen sporting bespoke “Wembanyama” Spurs jerseys, not to mention the throngs of autograph seekers lined up in the lower bowl of the arena for a chance to secure the signature of the first choice.
Wembanyama agreed in many instances, showing his affable personality with some deft moves.
When a brave fan tempted fate by throwing a basketball and pen at Wembanyama from the crowd, the 19-year-old caught them easily, signed the ball and skillfully returned them to the sender.
Another spectator handed Wembanyama a cellphone as the future NBA star approached the Barclays Center belly tunnel. Without hesitation, Wembanyama accepted the phone, took a selfie of himself giving a “peace” sign, and handed it back to the young boy, who was left speechless.
Unsurprisingly, Wembanyama was drafted first by the San Antonio Spurs in New York
Back in San Antonio, fans went wild celebrating the pick at the AT&T Center
A fan held up a sign with Wembanyama shooting lasers from his eyes, referring to the ‘alien’
A fan even had the teenager’s likeness shaved off the back of his head
San Antonio were in no doubt who they would pick and had printed Wembanyama jerseys ready
There was a brief solemn moment for Wembanyama and his family when he was first drafted.
Joined by his parents, former track and field athlete Felix Wembanyama and basketball coach Elodie de Fautereau, as well as his hoopster siblings, sister Eve and younger brother Oscar, the family appeared to be in tears a little when he left the “green room” of the repechage.
“It’s amazing, we’re all so proud,” Eve told ESPN in front of her crying younger brother.
“I had little tears in my eyes,” followed the smiling Oscar.
But those tears quickly turned to laughter and Wembanyama spent the rest of the evening bouncing from one gleeful interview to the next, as elated Spurs fans in San Antonio celebrated as if they had just won their sixth NBA title.
“I need to see footage of that,” Wembanyama said when told Spurs fans packed their arena to watch the draft. “My message to them is I’m going to give 100%, do everything in my power to make this franchise win, impact the franchise, the fan base and the community.”
Of course, there was still mystery in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Alabama forward Brandon Miller didn’t know if he would go second at Charlotte or third at the Portland Trail Blazers until Silver called his name after Wembanyama.
The 19-year-old is pictured with his sister Eve (left) and brother Oscar (right)
Wembayama signed a San Antonio jersey for a young fan outside Barclays Center
Highly touted G League point guard Scoot Henderson came in third, but there are lingering questions over his potential alongside veteran All-Star Damian Lillard, who could be traded if the Blazers decide to rebuild around of their new star.
But the biggest question of the night — and the one Wembanyama will face until he replicates Robinson and Duncan’s success in San Antonio — is whether or not the top pick can live up to the hype. media.
It won’t be easy.
For every Duncan, there’s Markelle Fultz, Anthony Bennett or Greg Oden — top picks who fell short of expectations for one reason or another.
And then there’s the challenge of playing for Gregg Popovich, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer who brings that kind of regimented militaristic structure to training.
“He’s not intimidating yet, but I’m sure he’s going to get intimidating when I see him in real life,” Wembanyama said of the five-time NBA champion, who he spoke to after being drafted. THURSDAY.
Wembanyama already has some familiarity with the Spurs, having seen fellow countryman Tony Parker play in the NBA Finals for coach Popovich.
Scoot Henderson was picked 3rd overall in the NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Miller was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the second overall pick
He could also be lucky enough to work with Duncan, who was briefly an assistant coach under Popovich, and is known to coach young Spurs players from time to time.
“Tim Duncan, if I had the opportunity to work with him…I can’t really think of a better role model,” Wembanyama said.
There are other things to expect about San Antonio, namely the breakfast tacos.
“I’ve heard a lot about breakfast tacos,” Wembanyama joked.
For now, Wembanyama is saying all the right things – and doing it in fluent English, no less.
If there’s one thing he’s made clear to New York, it’s that he knows success is anything but predestined. He may have averaged 20 points per game against veteran pros in France and the rest of Europe, but this is the NBA, and even Michael Jordan and LeBron James have had to work tirelessly for everything. they accomplished.
It is a commitment that is not lost on Wembanyama.
“Yes, it’s going to be a very long road for me to reach the top, but I’m ready to learn from anyone.”