Remember the name Victor Wembanyama.
America got its first proper glimpse of the 7’4” (224 cm) giant this week when he played his first televised games on US soil in Las Vegas.
And Wembanyama well and truly lived up to the hype. He is remarkably athletic for his height, can dribble the ball like a guard and shoots ridiculously well for someone so tall.
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Playing for his French team Metropolitans 92 against G League Ignite, the 18-year-old was unstoppable — tallying more than 30 points in both exhibition games and completely stealing the show.
Described as a taller version of Kevin Durant who can block shots, Wembanyama is the most hyped draft prospect since LeBron James and there is already speculation teams will tank this season to have a chance of taking him with the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.
Basketball fans couldn’t believe their eyes on Friday (AEDT) when Wembanyama dribbled into the corner, turned towards the basket and nailed an audacious off-balance three-pointer.
NBA Draft Analyst Jonathan Givony tweeted: “Victor Wembanyama makes it look easy with this absurd running pull-up 3 falling out of bounds from the corner demonstrating his exceptional footwork and body control.
“We’ve never seen anything remotely close to this before from a player this size.”
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton joked: “Cackling at the Wembanyama 3 fading out of bounds away from the basket. CGI is going too far.”
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie said: “That Wembanyama fadeaway 3 running in transition where he caught on the wing and took two giant steps to load into the corner 3 with a balanced fadeaway with a perfect energy transfer is one of the most laughable things I’ve seen.”
Mark Gottlieb posted: “Wembanyama is unreal. Like, literally … he must be a robot or something. This is computer game stuff. Absurd.”
Other highlight plays included an insane three-pointer from beyond 30 feet, an alley-oop dunk and several blocks.
Such was the interest in Wembanyama’s first nationally televised game in America, ESPN’s live feed of the match crashed on Friday.
NBA fans couldn’t believe their eyes when Wembanayma posed for a photo with compatriot Rudy Gobert and was clearly taller than the 216cm Minnesota Timbervolves centre.
He finished with 36 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, your blocks to steer Metropolitans 92 to a 112-106 win.
Earlier this week, LeBron James described Wembanya as a “generational talent” and an “alien”.
“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien,” he said.
“No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor. He’s a generational talent and hopefully he continues to stay healthy.”
Wembanya also drew high praise from Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“The way his skills, the way he could shoot the ball, the way he can move, he’s extremely fast for his size, can block shots, can be a threat on the offensive end, he’s unbelievable,” the Greek Freak said.
“We have never seen something like that before. I think it’s a good challenge for everybody around the league, to have somebody that’s 7’2” be able to shoot, dribble like he’s a guard, to block shots, to run down the door fast. We got to get ready for this kid. He’s going to be really good.”
Wembanya was honoured by the high praise but said it won’t feel like he’s achieved anything until he plays in the NBA.
“It’s obviously an honour to see such great people talk like this about me,” the Frenchman said.
“But it really doesn’t change anything. People around me sent me this video this morning and I was like, ‘Oh that’s cool’, but I just try stay focused.
“The thing is, I didn’t do anything yet. I didn’t play a game in the NBA yet, I wasn’t drafted so I got to stay focused to reach my goals. It’s going to be tough to get better every day and stay consistent.”
The Athletic’s Shams Charania added: “This kid, he’s 18 years old. He can handle the ball, he can shoot.
“We see Chet Holmgren, we see Kristaps Porzingis. They have unique games, they were called unicorns. This kid Victor Wembanyama gets so much elevation on his jump shots when he shoots from three.”