“I have no doubt,” basketball prodigy Victor Wembanyama assured Monday, eagerly awaited for his NBA debut with the San Antonio Spurs at the end of October. Short hair dyed blonde, Wembanyama connected Monday at 11 p.m. (4 p.m. in Texas) from San Antonio for a press briefing with the French media after the online broadcast of the preview of the documentary dedicated to him, “Un1que », which will be broadcast on the Canal and MyCanal channels on October 8. “I don’t feel any pressure,” assured the 19-year-old Frenchman, who arouses immense expectations after being chosen No. 1 in the NBA Draft in June by the San Antonio Spurs, whose season will begin on October 25 at home against Dallas.
The documentary of approximately one and a half hours, which underlines the importance of his close family, looks back on his last year and in particular the madness which accompanied his first steps in the United States. “These are stages that are part of life as a basketball player. When you have such high goals, it’s normal for there to be so much attention, questions, invasive people,” he explains. For his first season in the excess of the NBA, Wembanyama hopes for “qualification in the play-offs”, which the Spurs have not reached since 2019. “For the future, the best thing is not knowing what is waiting for us,” he smiles.
A title for example? “It’s very hard to win a ring. But I'm patient, I know it will happen at one point or another. Not winning in the first years was never an obstacle for anyone, to become a hall of famer or to win five titles in a row,” he says, launched on the path taken by the legends of the game Michael Jordan or LeBron James . “I have no doubt,” he adds about his level for his first matches in a league which brings together the best players in the world.
Wembanyama was chosen in June by the San Antonio Spurs and will be guided, like the four-time French NBA champion Tony Parker before him, by Gregg Popovich, who, at 74, extended his lease by five years at the head of the team Texan. “I’ve spent time with Popovich before. We talk very often in private. He is ready to be a mentor, to support me, to give everything, it’s nice to have such a dedicated coach from the start,” enthuses the Ile-de-France giant.
He insisted on the difference between his years in France (Nanterre, ASVEL, Boulogne-Levallois), and what he noticed after a few weeks in an NBA franchise: “I realize that we are behind in France compared to in everything we could do, there is real untapped potential for involvement. Here there are fifteen coaches. As soon as one guy falls on the parquet floor full of sweat, ten people run to wipe it up. If I’m going to shoot at 7 a.m., even if I don’t warn, four coaches are there on the rebound.”
After the madness experienced between his lost final of the French Championship with the Metropolitans 92 against Monaco, the Draft in June, then his two Summer League matches in July, Wembanyama “cut himself off from the world. It was the first time in my life that I felt mental fatigue. When I took a little vacation, it was a necessity to continue calmly on a mental level.
He was still able to follow the pitiful elimination of the France team in the first round of the Basketball World Cup at the end of August, in which he had decided not to participate. “The World Cup was very disappointing, like for everyone. But I have no judgment to make since I wasn't there, he whispers. This is perhaps the impetus we need to perform at the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 where the Blues, silver in 2021 in Tokyo, will be eagerly awaited with their young phenomenon. “I will be present at the Olympics, and there is no other goal than gold,” asserted the player who reignited the debate on his extraordinary height by announcing 2.21 m, compared to 2.24 m from the official NBA website.