The NBA draft lottery was Tuesday night in Chicago and 14 teams had hope that the ping-pong balls will bounce their way, giving them the No. 1 pick this year and the chance to draft Wembanyama.
The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Spurs all had the best chance of winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 pick — 14%, or about 7-1 odds. But the Spurs got the win, and now Wembanyama’s career will start with legendary coach Gregg Popovich, the NBA’s all-time win leader.
Here is a look at what all the fuss is about:
He’s one of the most talked-about players in the world right now, for good and obvious reasons. He is a 7-foot-3, 19-year-old phenom who is wrapping up his third professional season in France and is about to start his NBA career. LeBron James calls Wembanyama “an alien,” and says that with the utmost of respect. Wembanyama has the height of a center, the shooting touch of a wing and the passing ability of a point guard. His wingspan is nearly 8 feet and he can nearly grab the rim — 10 feet in the air — without even jumping.
His parents are both tall and both very athletic. His father, Felix Wembanyama, is about 6-foot-5 and was a high jumper. His mother, Elodie de Fautereau; is about 6-foot-3 and was a basketball standout. They have tried to keep life very normal for a son who just happens to have worldwide fame already. And Wembanyama has tried to be a normal kid; he likes video games, art, reading and soccer.
The winner of the lottery gets the chance to make the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft. So, while Wembanyama isn’t officially a member of the Spurs yet, it’s a foregone conclusion that — barring some sort of incredible trade — he’ll be selected by San Antonio in June and could be with his new club for summer league games in early July.
There is a learning curve for everybody, even No. 1 draft picks. And it’s a rite of passage for all rookies, especially highly touted ones, to get challenged by established NBA players — few of them are taller, but many are stronger and more experienced. He will have some rough moments, for certain. But he will make any team better, maybe much better, right away.
He became a full-time pro in the 2020-21 season with the French club Nanterre. He has been on three teams in his three seasons in the French league, his year with Nanterre followed by a season with the powerhouse club ASVEL — owned by Spurs great Tony Parker — and this season with Boulogne-Levallois. His current team wrapped up its regular season on Tuesday (which is why he wasn’t at the draft lottery) and is about to open the playoffs.
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