The Roar
The Roar


Victor victorious: Wembanyama exceeds hype to be first NBA phenom capable of being a genuine Jordan rival since LeBron

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1st March, 2024

When ESPN’s NBA newsbreaker extraordinaire Adrian Wojnarowski blurted out on NBA draft night that Victor Wembanyama could be the biggest game changer ever, it sounded hyperbolic beyond belief. 

The ubiquitous Woj called him “maybe the greatest prospect in the history of team sports”. 

His grandiose prediction led to a torrent of naysayers telling him to stick to posting Woj bombs on social media about trades. 

He may be entitled to an apology. 

An NBA executive was quoted before San Antonio took him with the No.1 pick as saying the French phenomenon could add as much as half a billion dollars to the value of a franchise. 

That may have been underselling his value. 


The 20-year-old is not only living up to the hype, he’s exceeding it. 

Despite the Spurs surrounding him with little to no support and deliberately trying to lose matches to get another high draft pick in the off-season, Wemby is in a world of his own. 

When Michael Jordan ascended to the undoubted greatest player of all time in the 1990s, there was a cavalcade of players described as potentially being the next MJ. 

Most of them were good players but not in the same league as Jordan’s unprecedented mix of skill, athleticism and intensity. 

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 09: Victor Wembanyama #1 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a free throw against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half of a 2023 NBA Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Victor Wembanyama. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

There have been several superstars since Jordan’s heyday but only Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have gone anywhere close to his omnipotence. And as magnificent as their careers were, or still are in the case of LeBron, even they have fallen short of chasing the ghost of Jordan. 

James was drafted two decades ago and there have been a bunch of consensus No.1 picks and talented stars who have caused a buzz leading into the draft but Wembanyama has already exceeded them all as far as immediate impact and the projections. 


The sky is limit. Potentially literally when you are as tall as Wembanyama at 2.24m (7-foot 4) and can do just about everything any other player on the court can do, but better and with the natural advantage that his prodigious height affords. 

Everyone expected him to be racking up the blocks and he hasn’t disappointed there with 3.3 per game. He’s even denying alley-oop entry passes. 

Points and rebounds were pretty much a given, especially because the Spurs have few quality bigs or offensive threats so he’s a walking 20 and 10 machine. 

Three-pointers were also expected but not at this clip. He hit five of seven against the Thunder on Friday, showing logo range in the process. 

The passing has been the “now come on, that’s not fair” factor that has Wembanyama now being talked about as not only a multiple MVP in the future but one day possibly entering the stratosphere of the all-time greatest to have ever laced up a boot. 

He’s dropping dimes all over the place, demonstrating elite court vision and skill to set up teammates from all angles as defences rush to double-team him. 


Winning one MVP is a huge accomplishment and the way the voters quickly get fatigued voting for the same player makes it extremely hard to win multiple awards although Denver’s Nikola Jokic is a strong chance of collecting a third this season. 

Wemby could win more. His contemporaries in the drafts ahead of him have been underwhelming, or project to be good but not great or have glaring flaws like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. 

Depending on your perspective and faith in coach Gregg Popovich’s planning, San Antonio have given their fantastic Frenchman a rough entry into the NBA or nursed him along perfectly. 

They switched him to power forward initially to shield his slender frame from the bumps and bruises that come with banging bodies in the paint. But since they have made him play permanently at his preferred position, his output has soared, culminating in a rare five by five stats explosion against the Lakers on the weekend. 

The lack of a competent point guard has also made it harder for the rookie but given that he seems to be managing just fine without an elite playmaker, it’s mind boggling to think of how much better he could be if they can draft a long-term backcourt general or bring in a veteran from elsewhere. 

He stuffed the stats sheet in the upset win over OKC with 28 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and two steals while going 9 of 17 from the floor as he dominated erstwhile Rookie of the Year rival Chet Holmgren, blocking the seven-footer with ease. 


His performance against OKC was the first time in NBA history that someone he scored 25+ points, 10+ rebounds and five or more blocks, assists and threes in a single game.

Now the big question is whether the Spurs will play the long game with Wembanyama and slowly build a support cast around him via the draft. 

Or will they press the accelerator and trade players and picks to be title contenders within the next couple of years. 

Wembanyama will almost automatically be an All-Star and likely All-NBA player next season, and it won’t be long before he is considered one of the best 5-10 players in the league based on current form, not just expectations. 

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 13: Patty Mills #8 of the Atlanta Hawks warms up before facing the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on December 13, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/Getty Images)

Patty Mills. (Photo by Andrew Lahodynskyj/Getty Images)

San Antonio have been traditionally the most conservative franchise in the NBA so don’t expect them to get too creative too soon. 

And if they’re looking for a veteran to mentor Wembanyama on Spurs basketball and how to be a true professional, they should be tracking down, if they haven’t already, the one and only Patty Mills to finish his NBA career at the franchise where he was an integral part of the 2014 championship. 


Mills was waived by Atlanta on Thursday and it would be fitting for the 35-year-old Boomers legend to finish his career of exceeding expectations in a Spurs uniform.