Throughout NBA history, basketball fans have been blessed to witness some of the most breathtaking athletes, whether that be Michael Jordan and LeBron James and their defying athleticism, or players such as Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal, both who stood at 7’1 and 300 pounds and were as mobile and agile as they came with brute force that made opponents sore.
We have also seen Magic Johnson change the point guard position as a 6’9 playmaker, or Stephen Curry transform the game forever with his otherworldly shooting exploits from beyond the arc.
But no player in the history of the game has combined the size, skill set, and freakish physical attributes of the 7’4, 210lb, “French Mamba,” Victor Wembanyama. He’s like a skyscraper looking down at you and is arguably the freakiest prospect ever by not only being 7-foot-4 but also boasting an insane 8-foot wingspan!
Granted, we have seen guys with crazy measurements throughout NBA history but they never put it all together, a la Mo Bamba or Bol Bol. That said, Victor Wembanyama has been on NBA scouts’ and GMs’ radar for a while now. When he was 16, a viral video of him playing two-on-two against fellow Frenchman Rudy Gobert in a friendly match displayed his unique repertoire of skills.
His hype continued to grow after an eye-opening performance in the summer of 2021 at the U19 FIBA tournament, making the first team of the tournament along with two future NBA top-five picks in Jaden Ivey and 7-foot-1 Chet Holmgren, who also has similar skillset to Wembanyama. That game was Wembanyama's true breakout party, as he put up 22 points, 8 rebounds, and a whopping 8 blocks against a USA team that he was more than two years younger than.
He was doing it all, from blocking shots on the perimeter to defending the rim at an elite level. He also showed insane shot creation ability, from pull-up threes in transition to curling off screens, and on one play even did a pull-back three just for fun and cashed it. As impressive as Wembanyama was in the first game, he was even better in the second one, scoring 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 4 assists along with 4 blocks.
Is the Teenager the Real Deal?
Last season, playing for ASVEL, he averaged just 9.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, and just under a steal and block per game. He shot 47% from the field, 26% from three, and 60% from the foul line at just 17 years of age, playing against grown men. Those might not have been slam dunk #1 overall pick numbers, but for you, analytic nerds, his PER 36 averages were 18.4 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and an impressive 3.5 blocks per game.
He struggled with foul trouble, averaging 4.9 fouls per game, but showed flashes of the ability to put the ball on the floor, make shots off the dribble, protect the rim, and do things we rarely see from a big man. The hype for Wembanyama only heightened when his current team, Metropolitans 92, a French Pro League team, faced off against the NBA G League Ignite in a pair of exhibition games.
The Ignite have another fellow top draft prospect, Scoot Henderson, who’s projected to go No. 2 behind Wembanyama. Although Henderson had an amazing first game, sadly he missed most of the second exhibition game due to banging knees with Wembanyama. Still, it was Wembanyama who had the whole basketball world’s eyes in disbelief. Wembanyama finished with 37 points on 11-of-20 from the field (55%), an absurd 7-11 from three (63%), had four rebounds, and five blocks!
The Hype is Real
Even some of the top NBA stars, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the 7’4 freak from France. “Everybody has been a unicorn for the last two years, but he’s more like an alien. I’ve never seen—no one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor,” James said.
From Kristaps Porzingis to Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, and Bill Walton, to name a few, it goes to show the long history of players that big, whose fate seems to be marred by injuries. Fortunately, Victor Wembanyama is a very intelligent kid, and he’s already seeing the best specialists in the world for feet, back, and so forth to find a way to combat the injury demons that have hurt a plethora of big men’s careers.
The hype is out of this galaxy for Wembanyama, but it will all come down to if he can stay healthy, as history has shown many guys his size have not been able to have long and successful careers in the NBA.