Spurs strike gold with ‘Wemby’

6/1/2023, 6 p.m.
And the winner is ... On May 22, the San Antonio Spurs may have won the NBA prize of this …
Victory Wembanyama

And the winner is ...

On May 22, the San Antonio Spurs may have won the NBA prize of this century, or perhaps any century, via the NBA Draft Lottery.

By securing the No. 1 selection in the upcoming June 22 Draft, the Spurs will likely pick 7-foot-3, 19-year-old Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, known as “Wemby.”

He is the most ballyhooed prospect at least since LeBron James, then a high school student in Akron, was tapped by Cleveland as its first choice in 2003.

As a result, this year’s Lottery was widely spoken of as the “Wemby Sweepstakes.”

Wembanyama, who turns 20 on Jan. 4, is most compared to current NBA stars Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo offensively and Rudy Gobert on defense.

He has an other-worldly 8-foot wingspan, a fluid jump shot from a distance and quickness and footwork more associated with much smaller men.

Wembanyama played this past season for Paris-based Metropolitans ’92 of France’s top Pro A League.

He averaged a league-leading 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots while hitting 55 percent from the floor and 30 percent from beyond the arc.

Sweeping most postseason honors, he was named MVP, Top Scorer, Best Defender and Best Young Player.

This is the third time the Spurs have had the first overall pick. San Antonio chose David Robinson No. 1 in 1987 and Tim Duncan with the first choice in 1997.

Those two top picks helped the Spurs win a total of five NBA titles between 1999 and 2014.

The Spurs, a poor 22-60 this past season, were one of 14 non-playoff teams entered in the May 22 Lottery. That means they had a 14 percent chance of picking the right ping pong ball in a standard lottery machine.

For comparisons, outside of James in 2003, perhaps the most heavily anticipated No. 1 picks of all time were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by Milwaukee in 1969, Magic Johnson by the Lakers in 1979, Ralph Sampson by Houston in 1984, Pat Ewing by the Knicks in 1985, and Shaquille O’Neal by Orlando in 1992.

The National Basketball Association is truly International.

Barring an earth-shaking trade between now and June 22, “Wemby” will be the seventh international overall No. 1 pick since 2013.

Anthony Bennett (Canada) went first in 2013, Andrew Wiggins (Canada) in 2014, Karl- Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic) in 2015, Ben Simmons (Australia) in 2016, Deandre Ayton (The Bahamas) in 2019 and Paulo Banchero (Italy) in 2022.

Unlike Wembanyama, all played at least one season of U.S. college hoops before entering the draft.

The sensation’s height comes naturally. His father Felix, of Congolese ancestry, is 6-foot-6 and his French mother, Elodie, is 6-foot-3.

“Wemby’s” lucky agent is Black Frenchman Bouna Ndiaye, a longtime friend of the family.

Salaries are set in stone for rookie draftees.

As of 2022-‘23, the No. 1 pick (Banchero) earned $9,212,600 for his rookie season. His second-season salary is $9,673,400.