Who is Victor Wembanyama, young prodigy of French basketball

The unicorn of world basketball

A unicorn. This is how world basketball specialists have described Victor Wembanyama for several years, as the profile of the 18-year-old French player seems unique in the history of this sport. Despite his size (2.21 meters), which places him well above the average of his peers, the young man moves on the ground with agility; he dribbles and shoots with the ease of a full-back or winger. The United States discovered the phenomenon during two exhibition matches played in Las Vegas, on October 4 and 6, with his club, the Metropolitans 92 of Boulogne-Levallois. Results ? “He’s an alien, the talent of a generation”, praised the American LeBron James, one of the best players in the world of the last twenty years.

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Heading for America

These two meetings with a team of players playing in the antechamber of the NBA were organized with the aim of presenting the nugget to the American public through the channel specializing in sports ESPN. The French championship calendar has even been shaken up so that the Metropolitans 92 can move to Nevada. Author of 37 points in the first game, then 36 in the second, “Wemby” – his new nickname across the Atlantic – far exceeded expectations. slam, the flagship magazine of basketball in the United States, made no mistake about it by devoting its front page to the French a few days before the event. He is expected to lead the NBA draft in 2023, an annual selection process for young talents wishing to join the famous basketball league. Some clubs would also be ready to deliberately lose as many games as possible this season in order to be able to recover it (the teams with the worst results have priority in the choice of players).

A child of the ball

Born in Chesnay (Yvelines), on January 4, 2004, Victor Wembanyama is the son of two distinguished athletes. His mother, a former basketball player, played in the third division. His father, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, practiced the triple jump. His older sister is also a professional basketball player – a path his little brother would see himself following. Victor Wembanyama was trained in Nanterre, where his potential was obvious from the age of 10 (he was then 1.80 meters tall). Atypical player, the young man does not claim any model, when others swear by the stars of the moment, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant or LeBron James. A way to project yourself as a one-of-a-kind specimen. His trip to the United States made it possible to measure that the ease of the giant is also exported outside the parquet floors: bachelor (mention fairly good) since 2021, he spoke in an English that could not be more fluid in front of the press .

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Programmed for the summits

Victor Wembanyama’s career choices testify to a sure vision of the steps to climb to reach the heights. In 2021, after a stint at the Federal Center – nursery for the best French hopefuls – he joined ASVEL, the club owned by Tony Parker, in order to gain experience in a team competing in the Euroleague (the basketball equivalent of the Champions League in football). A season later, here he is in Boulogne-Levallois. The destination is less posh, but it allows him to benefit from more playing time in anticipation of the big leap to the NBA. The prospect, too, of flourishing under the orders of his trainer Vincent Collet, also coach of the France team. The Blues, silver medalists at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, hope that the young man’s reinforcement will allow them to win gold in Paris in 2024.


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