Spurs make French phenom Victor Wembanyama first overall pick in NBA Draft

‘Wemby’ is considered a generational talent, projected to be the top selection

SAN ANTONIO – In one of the worst-kept secrets in professional sports, the San Antonio Spurs have selected 19-year-old French basketball sensation Victor Wembanyama with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Wembanyama, 19, is considered a generational talent and has been the expected choice with the first selection prior to the Spurs winning the draft lottery.

He’s expected by many to become the NBA’s newest superstar.

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“For me, San Antonio is a synonym of winning,” Wembanyama said in a press conference prior to the draft. “When the Spurs got the number one pick, I was thinking I was lucky they got the pick as a franchise that has that culture.”

Wemby,” as he’s often called, despite being only a teenager, is a 7-foot-3-inch gazelle who can run and jump with the greatest of athletes and has shown immense skill playing in the highest levels of European basketball leagues.

Wembanyama played for the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 and led the French league in points, rebounds and blocks while leading them to the championship series.

FILE - Boulogne-Levallois' Victor Wembanyama, top, dunks during the Elite basketball match Boulogne-Levallois against Paris at the Palais de Sports Marcel Cerdan stadium in Levallois-Perret, outside Paris, May 16, 2023. Wembanyam is among the headliners among the top big men in the upcoming NBA draft. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Wemby joins Duncan, Robinson as No. 1 overall picks

The last time San Antonio won the draft lottery was in 1997 when they used the No. 1 overall pick to select franchise cornerstone and NBA legend Tim Duncan.

With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs vaulted into the stratosphere of the NBA’s elite teams and won five NBA titles.

San Antonio also won the draft lottery in 1987 and used the pick to take David “The Admiral’ Robinson.

Robinson powered the Spurs’ offense and defense for the better part of two decades and cemented a lasting legacy in the Alamo City by helping the franchise win its first two NBA titles alongside Duncan.

Wembanyama, like Tim Duncan before him, began his sporting career elsewhere. He played soccer as a goalkeeper and studied judo before focusing on basketball.

He ultimately began his basketball career thanks to his mom, who coached youth teams. He’s now the third number-one pick in the Spurs’ franchise history.

The Spurs also have picks 33 and 44 in the second round. They currently have 23 picks in the next five drafts. You can watch the 2023 NBA Draft on KSAT 12.

‘Something that we’ve never seen before’

His abilities have caught current NBA players’ attention, as Lakers star LeBron James once called Wemby “an alien” since he has the height of a center but the play style of a guard.

Scouts have offered comparisons and combinations of Hall-of-Famer Dirk Nowitzki, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant, but they’re all arguably less talented than what he could ultimately become.

“Talent-wise, I think he’s something that we’ve never seen before,” former Spurs hall-of-fame guard Tony Parker said to the Associated Press.

Wemby’s signature play was a break-the-Internet moment when he took a 3-pointer, missed it short, followed the shot and slammed it home in one motion, completely unbothered by the players who were in his way.

The 7-foot-3-inch big man has been on the radar of NBA scouts since he was 16, convincing them he can do it all. He’s the type of unheard-of player that can run the floor, shoot from a distance and be a defensive presence at the rim.

It’s also been reported that he has a wingspan of nearly 8 feet and can nearly grab the rim without jumping, with a frame that has yet to fill out.

In a press conference before the NBA draft on Wednesday, Wembanyama said he’s been working out despite his travel schedule and plans to play for the Spurs’ summer league team. It’s unclear, however, if that’s for the Sacramento summer league games, or if that’s during the Las Vegas Summer League, or both.

“I’m trying to be the best. Being the best is not only on the court. It’s being the best at media and press conference. I don’t like to do things halfway,” he said.

A mural of Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-3 French basketball star, painted by artist Nik Soupe is seen on a seafood restaurant in San Antonio, Thursday, June 15, 2023. The San Antonio Spurs are expected to make Wembanyama the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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About the Author:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.