From a basketball context, it’s funny that the word “hyperbole” literally comes from overthrowing your mark. It’s by definition an overzealous rim-out; an attempt that won’t go in. Maybe that forces us to eventually reframe the hype and hoopla that preceded Victor Wembanyama’s arrival to the NBA as simply a setting of expectations — big words that presaged big things. Or maybe it won’t. It’s early — so early — in the Wembanyama era, and fans should extract joy in that unknown and discovery from game to game.
Hyperbole can only prepare you so much, no matter how excessive. To know what it actually translates to, you need to see the guy do the things that drop jaws, steal breaths and make you rethink the three-dimensional space on a basketball court.
In the first weeks of the Victor Wembanyama experience, the rookie’s already proven to be a maker of moments. There are numbers on a box score, to be sure, but they’re just waterlines left by a teenager who seems to be using the NBA as a sandbox environment.
Thursday’s 38-point, 10-rebound effort versus the Suns underscored Wembanyama’s otherworldly potential as a throw-it-up-and-finish threat, offensive hub both inside and on the perimeter, and one-man no-fly zone around the basket, each audacious lob or pull-up a delightful surprise rather than something that may, down the line, be taken for granted. He and the Spurs are just skimming the surface of how to put it all together.
There’s a future version of you who has a better grasp of what that looks like, of the breadth of Wembanyama’s work and the outline of his game; his spots on the floor and how he floats to them, his weaknesses, what makes him tick, the singular bend of his career. You’ve seen his basketball gifts swell like a wave and crash on the opposition, in the moment precarious and uncertain but in hindsight maybe inevitable?
For that iteration of you there are no more Wembanyama-related surprises — and because of that they envy you, your viewing of his brilliant game yet with vestal eyes, the ignorance of what’s next, and being caught somewhere in between what Wembanyama might do on any given possession and what can’t he do. Fandom can rarely be so innocent.
Here in that blissful liminal space is where we find ourselves now. It’s not just that basketball is back in San Antonio, that the Spurs after nearly a year are above .500 and after a respective eternity have a theoretical path to contention; it’s how the towering 19-year-old from France could manifest that in ways our puny brains can’t yet imagine.