in San Antonio, the « Wembamania » had already begun before his arrival


Victor Wembanyama, here after the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitan 92 -Cholet Basket match, at the Palais des Sports Marcel Cerdan à  Levallois-Perret, May 25, 2023.

Victor Wembanyama, here after the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitan 92 – Cholet Basket match, at the Palais des Sports Marcel Cerdan in Levallois -Perret, May 25, 2023.

NBA – It’s the big day for Victor Wembanyama. The French prodigy who played in Boulogne-Levallois this season, will be selected – with a 99.9% chance – as the first choice by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA draft, on the night of Thursday to Friday.

“I could pass out. I’m so excited. The city of San Antonio, our fans, we have so many people who love Spurs. We are fired up”, commented on May 16 Peter J. Holt, president of the Texas franchise, during the draw of the team inheriting the first draft pick. A reaction that left little doubt as to the nature of the jackpot won.

Indeed, already that evening, the whole city of San Antonio had also been in turmoil at the time of the announcement that all the fans were hoping for, experienced for example in this sports bar (see the video below) as a victory in the World Cup final.

Since then, the excitement has been rising crescendo in the Texas city of 1.4 million inhabitants, the seventh in the United States, which lives sportingly only for its Spurs and which Tony Parker introduced to France during his time between 2001 and 2018. The basketball team, which joined the NBA in 1976, remains the city’s only franchise, a rare case in the United States where cities from Los Angeles to New York via Chicago, Denver where Phoenix have their basketball team, but also baseball (MLB), American football (NFL) and ice hockey (NHL). And sometimes even two franchises on a single sport.

Result, even before the formalization this night of his signature, “Wemby” is already displayed everywhere in town. For example on this fresco representing the player with a Spurs jersey.

Or even on derivative products, like this candle where he appears as a god (see the picture below), which are selling like hot cakes, according to Maxime Aubin, a sports journalist based in the United States. In a report for The Teamthis one also quotes a seller completely “overwhelmed with orders at the moment” after the marketing of a t-shirt representing Wembanyama alongside two legends of the franchise, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Exploding subscription requests

Another marker of the « Wembamania » already underway, Spurs fans had begun to rush for subscriptions for next season within hours of the announcement of the first draft pick for the franchise. Within a few hours, more than 2,500 subscription requests had been recorded by the ticket office.

The subscriptions of the expensive first three rows of the hall of the Spurs, the AT&T Center, neglected in recent years, have also already torn off, according to the leaders of the franchise.

The Spurs, only 25th out of 30 in terms of average attendance in the NBA last season, with 16,937 spectators, should logically sell out every game for the coming year. The AT&T Center can accommodate a total of 18,418 people in a basketball configuration.

According to local News 4 San Antonio sports editor Don Harris, Victor Wembanyama’s arrival is even  » so huge that it will change the whole city”. “He will change San Antonio like Jordan changed Chicago”he predicted, going even much further, as reported RMC Sports : “There will be a new arena, a new neighborhood, businesses will move their headquarters here, celebrities will come frequently, the population will grow, and San Antonio will become a national television can’t-miss event and even lead to a tourism boom. Too ? For what ? If you think he’s the best prospect ever, then San Antonio will never be the same. »

Before the Spurs won the jackpot, an executive interviewed by ESPN estimated that selecting Victor Wembanyama in the draft would increase the value of the happy franchise by at least $500 million.

In the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan

A legitimate excitement that promises a necessarily bright future for the San Antonio Spurs? Only 19 years old, Victor Wembanyama, very mobile, technical and agile despite his large size (2.21 m, 2.43 m wingspan), is a talent like you only see one in a generation. LeBron James himself went so far as to call him a » extraterrestrial « . In front of the press, “Wemby” has also already bluffed by showing his ease in managing the enormous expectations around him.

But once immersed in the deep end of the NBA, with its 82 games per season at the rate of three to four per week, its incessant travels and its more physical training than in Europe, the French player will have to avoid burning his wings. , as have several first draft picks in the past (Kwame Brown, Markelle Fultz, Anthony Bennett, Greg Oden…).

He will also inevitably be compared to two former legends of the Texas franchise, drafted like him first in 1987 and 1997, David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Two giants by size (respectively 2.16 m and 2.11 m), by their record (seven NBA titles between them) and by their unfailing loyalty to the Spurs. Both players have spent their entire career there: 19 seasons for Duncan and 14 for Robinson.

Unlike Tony Parker, who arrived at Spurs in 2000 in an already very solid team (around Duncan and Robinson), Victor Wembanyama will land him in one of the worst squads in the league. San Antonio indeed ended its last season with 22 wins for 60 defeats, the 29th record out of 30.

We bet that his future coach Gregg Popovich, in office since 1996 at Spurs, will be able to launch his career, he who had already done so brilliantly with Tim Duncan, who has become one of the best interiors in the history of the league.

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