Victor Wembanyama has (let’s use an understatement today) performed adequately leading up to his first regular season game for the San Antonio Spurs. In the closing hours of the league’s offseason, I’d like to draw your attention to both the large number and the high quality of his memorable moments leading up to his NBA debut. Also, I’d like to point out my favorite one.
First, there were the the profound answers he gave to some probing questions on JJ Reddick’s podcast just before the Spurs drafted him. If you haven’t watched the whole thing, you should. If you don’t have time, then at least skip to the section about how Wemby stays grounded which begins at 28:50. I’ll be candid and tell you that this is the point where I became a fan.
Second, we’ll go to a lightning round as some moments can be described pretty simply, like, the nutmeg, as well as ... The up an under against OKC (and in slow motion). The rebounding while going out of bounds behind the back pass for a three against Houston. The outside the restricted area dunk against Miami and the haunted reaction it provoked. The give-and-go alley-oop he initiated from the 3-point line. And the 90 seconds of domination I detailed in an earlier piece.
Finally there’s my favorite of them all. It’s a moment after yesterday’s practice, which I’ll just call the “Are they?”
You can watch this moment in context, if you like, beginning at the 1:30 mark of this video. It begins with the question, “Victor, so many people are talking about what they expect you to do, and you know, what, what, uh ...” to which Wemby interjects a knowing, “Are they?” When I watched it, I nearly burst out laughing.
This moment communicates so much in a handful of seconds and just two words. The arched eyebrow registers with me as if to say, “Sure, let’s talk about expectations, as if they’re actually important.” His look-off as he speaks before turning back to the questioner insures that he’s not directing distain to the media member, but instead to the recognition of so many people’s ideas about him being something he has to own personally. The quick smile and glance before returning his attention to the questioner gives the impression of taking it in good humor and with patience while being able to laugh at the whole situation. Then there’s the time he takes to listen to the rest of the question and give a thoughtful reply, which shows once again how unruffled his approach to the press is.
This is my current favorite moment, because it has all the rest of them wrapped up in it. It’s Wembanyama as a person not being overly impressed with his situation, the trappings, the attention, or himself. It shows that he’s more than just a collection of talents. He’s a quality individual that would be noteworthy without his extreme physical gifts. Which is important because if the man is going to be able to achieve his long-term goal of winning as many championships as possible, it’s going to be a long haul. And the main predictors of repeated success are attitude mindset, internal fortitude, the commitment to persevere, a sense of humor, and enough good grace to not take it all too seriously, and sometimes just respond, “Are they?”
As a bonus, if you have some time to kill before the game, here’s a video of every play Wemby made in the whole preseason. Enjoy.