Victor Wembanyama, chosen in the first position of the draft by the San Antonio Spurs

Victor Wembanyama was chosen Thursday, June 22, as expected, in first position by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA draft, a historic first for a French player. The Chesnay giant succeeds legends David Robinson and Tim Duncan, both also chosen first overall by the Texas franchise in 1987 and 1997 respectively.

It is a new page in the history of French basketball, and perhaps of the NBA, which was written when “Wemby”, his nickname, took to the podium to shake hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The 19-year-old international is considered the biggest potential in world basketball since LeBron James, drafted 20 years ago, almost to the day.

“You make us dream”reacted French President Emmanuel Macron, from his Twitter account. “No doubt: you will mark the history of your sport. »

Read the picture: Article reserved for our subscribers Victor Wembanyama, the French basketball star under the NBA spotlight

After the traditional handshake, the French prodigy wore a cap bearing the image of the silver spur which serves as the logo of the Texas franchise. A gesture that had already been made, 22 years earlier, by a certain Tony Parker, who left an immense mark in the history of Spurs with four rings of champions (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014) at the key.

Victor Wembanyama joins the great Spurs family, a franchise which has built, around coach Gregg Popovich, a culture of winning and intelligent play, which has become a benchmark in the NBA and around the world.

San Antonio will nevertheless need its new number one to straighten out its recent sporting trajectory, marked by four seasons without the playoffs.

Head to the Summer League

Dressed in an elegant dark green double-breasted suit, cinched in the back by a ribbon, the former Nanterre and Boulogne-Levallois player appeared very relaxed before the start of the ceremony. All smiles, he had, on his own initiative, signed autographs, in particular on a ball thrown by a fan from the stands, to the enthusiastic cries of clusters of fans.

Even before the official selection by San Antonio, spectators were already sporting a Spurs jersey hit with the number one, the one he wore at Boulogne-Levallois last season. Now officially entered the NBA on Thursday, Victor Wembanyama must fly to San Antonio on Friday, before an official presentation on Saturday.

A Spurs fan holds a Victor Wembanyama sign in San Antonio on June 22, 2023.

He should then quickly put on the Spurs tunic for the first time, well before the start of the next NBA season at the end of October. He is, in fact, expected at the Summer Leagues, the summer leagues traditionally dedicated to young neophytes as well as veterans looking for a contract.

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“I’m sure I’m going to play the Summer League” early July, he said Wednesday, without specifying whether he would take part in Sacramento (July 3 and 5), Las Vegas (July 7 to 17), or both. One thing is certain, Wembanyama will not play “certainly not all the matches, because I had a long season before, and I have something after”he added, while his French campaign did not end until June 15.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers NBA Draft: Victor Wembanyama from every angle

This ” something “it’s the Basketball World Cup, which will take place in Indonesia, where France will play its group matches, in the Philippines and in Japan, from August 25 to September 10. “It is always my will” to participate, “I’m waiting to agree with my frankness”.

Fond of foreign players for more than twenty years, the Spurs traditionally do not hinder those of their elements who wish to represent their country in international competition.

Bilal Coulibaly drafted in seventh position

Still announced at the end of the first round a few weeks ago, Bilal Coulibaly had a meteoric trajectory, to the point of almost realizing the dream of Victor Wembanyama, who considered him cut out for the top 5 in the draft.

Bilal Coulibaly with NBA commissioner Adam Silver on June 22, 2023 in New York.

“Everything happened very very quickly, I barely had time to realize”explained the interested party after his selection.

Mainly used with the hopes at the start of the season, the native winger of Saint-Cloud (Hauts-de-Seine) only started to have playing time with the pros in mid-January.

He ended the season as a cannonball, starting in all three matches of the final lost to Monaco.

He lands in a Washington team in full restructuring, which has just separated from its two best elements, Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis.

“I like the city, I like the staff”Bilal Coulibaly said of his new team, the Wizards, “So I’m just going to have fun. »
Rayan Rupert was drafted 43rd in the second round to the Trailblazers in Portland, Oregon. The fourth Frenchman, Sidy Cissoko, is 44ᵉ. He will take the direction of the Utah Jazz.

The World with AFP

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