Even Tony Parker, the French player with four NBA titles, had not had this honor. Victor Wembanyama was named “rookie of the year” on Monday, May 6, the NBA announced, validating the San Antonio Spurs player’s convincing first season in the North American basketball league.

To succeed Orlando Magic power forward Paolo Banchero, a panel of one hundred media personalities following the NBA voted for “Wemby” who becomes the third European after the Spaniard Pau Gasol (2002) and the Slovenian Luka Doncic ( 2019) to win this prestigious individual trophy rewarding the best beginner.

If the collective results were not there – the Spurs finished in 14th place out of fifteen in the Western Conference – the Frenchman, aged 20 and drafted in first position by the Texan franchise in June 2023, was able to gain momentum throughout the season to confirm a first NBA year that lived up to the immense expectations it arouses.

Rare statistics for a beginner

After some doubts at the start of the year, the French giant (2.24 m) finally put an end to the suspense and beat Oklahoma City center Chet Holmgren. The 22-year-old American, with characteristics close to the Frenchman (very tall, 2.16 m, mobile and dexterous), is announced as his great rival in the years to come, after the two players have already faced each other in competitions international youth.

Although not very victorious with the Spurs (22 wins, 60 losses), Victor Wembanyama lit up the league with his talent, immediately becoming one of the fans’ favorites: the Frenchman was the third player to have generated the most video views » on social networks (1.3 billion) according to the NBA, behind superstars LeBron James (1.9 billion) and Stephen Curry (1.7 billion).

Victor Wembanyama, placed at the heart of the San Antonio Spurs reconstruction project, has posted rare statistics for a beginner in the NBA. In 71 of his franchise’s 82 games – he was rested for a few ankle scares – he averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 blocks, placing him in lead for the entire league in this last statistical area.

In the running for “Defender of the Year,” with Rudy Gobert

Visible and spectacular elements of his defensive work, Victor Wembanyama’s counterattacks could offer him, from Tuesday, a new trophy, he who is one of the three finalists for the “defender of the year” award, along with his compatriot Rudy Gobert and Miami pivot Bam Adebayo. The outcome is much more uncertain this time, facing two experienced All-Star players.

Rudy Gobert, Minnesota’s centerpiece of the best NBA defense, more than ever in the title race, has already won the award three times (2018, 2019 and 2021). Adebayo (26), eliminated with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs by Boston, was selected by the United States in a “dream team” for the Paris Olympic Games.

Paris and the Olympic rings are the next horizon for Victor Wembanyama, currently resting while the strongest teams in the league battle in the playoffs. There is no doubt that the giant will be called up on May 16 by French coach Vincent Collet, who is counting on his former Metropolitans 92 player to shine at the Games, in his first senior international competition.