Victor Wembanyama, among the stars of All-Star Weekend, continues his discovery of the NBA

In turn, American spectators are gradually getting used to it: with Victor Wembanyama, excess seems the norm

Victor Wembanyama, among the stars of All-Star Weekend, continues his discovery of the NBA

In turn, American spectators are gradually getting used to it: with Victor Wembanyama, excess seems the norm. The San Antonio Spurs phenomenon delivers a successful first season in the NBA and rewards the public game after game with sequences sometimes seeming to come out of a video game: “dunks” by taking support off the racket – easier from the top of 2, 24 meters –, behind the back passes or chained blocks (he dominates the North American basketball league in this category, and recently made ten “blocks” in a single match), the 20-year-old Frenchman likes to put on a show. His skills make him a perfect candidate for All-Star Weekend.

For three days, the NBA regular season is paused and the country's best players converge on the same destination. In 2024, Indianapolis, capital of the land of the orange ball that is Indiana, will host the big rally from Friday February 16 to Sunday February 18.

Despite statistics making him a legitimate contender (20.5 points, 10 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game), Victor Wembanyama was not selected for the "all-star game", which pits the elite of the Eastern Conferences against each other. and North American League West. He undoubtedly suffers from his team's poor record – with 11 wins and 44 losses, Spurs are dead last in the West. However, he did make the trip to Indiana. And, like his season, his first All-Star Weekend promises to be hectic: the immense Frenchman should be the center of all attention.

After passing through the seminar which inaugurates the event, “Wemby” plays the Rising Star Game, an all-star match for NBA neophytes, on Friday evening (at 3 a.m. Paris time). With his compatriot and ex-teammate at the Metropolitans 92 Bilal Coulibaly, the Frenchman should shine in this mini-tournament seeing four teams of rookies (players playing their first year in the NBA) and sophomores (those playing their second year) competing. He will continue on Saturday with the Skills Challenge, a dexterity test.

LeBron James' twentieth cap at the All-Star Game

“I was so focused on our season that I didn’t really think about this program,” assured Victor Wembanyama at a press conference. In my opinion, it will hit me when I get there. And it’s sure to be a special experience, and I can’t wait. I wonder what it's like to see... all these great players in the same jersey. »

Closely monitored by the Spurs, who monitor his minutes played and protect their prodigy, the Frenchman is having a first season that lives up to the expectations he has generated. “I thought it was better to get an idea of ​​what he was worth by watching him play,” breathed, during the week, the coach of the Texan franchise, Gregg Popovich, after letting “Wemby” find his marks in the league. “Now we know a lot more about him. »The entire NBA can confirm this. Now favorite in the race for the best rookie of the year after having been rivaled for a time by Oklahoma City Thunder insider Chet Holmgren, the Frenchman is rallying most observers to his cause.

“Wembanyama is fun to watch play,” former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal said this week. Converted into a television consultant, the multiple All-Star had not hidden his skepticism at the arrival of the always frail Habs in the NBA. “His team may not be playing well, but he’s playing very well. »

On Sunday, the rookie will not be on the ultra-technological floor unveiled by the NBA for this weekend – a huge LED screen, covered with an unbreakable filter and evoking the texture of a wooden floor. He will witness star LeBron James' twentieth All-Star Game selection from the front row – a record. The most anticipated player in the league in 2003, like “Wemby” twenty years later, the current Lakers player also did not have the honor of being an All-Star in his first season.

“Of course, being selected would have been an achievement, but I think more about winning matches and progressing with the team than that,” commented Victor Wembanyama this week. If he continues his career on the momentum of his start to the season, the Frenchman should quickly swell the ranks of "stars", and offer the public his range of movements in an upcoming match where, in general, defenses are absent. . “He will soon become a very, very big problem for opponents,” his compatriot Rudy Gobert soberly prophesied at the beginning of November, after facing the phenomenon for the first time in the NBA. A very, very big problem, even.