The Spurs front office, long known for its creativity, may have out-done itself this time. Taking advantage of the Hague Convention, of all things, the Spurs have acquired presumptive first pick Victor Wembanyama from his French team, the Metropolitans 92, in the first ever international sign-and-trade. Immediately prior to the transaction, Wembanyama signed a massive seven-year $240 million contract (221 million Euros) with the French team. That team clearly could not afford to pay anyone that amount, even for someone as talented as Wembanyama. The team also knew that they would be losing Wembanyama to the NBA at the end of this season anyway. Of course, the Spurs can easily afford the contract, even though it exceeds the NBA rookie contract scale in both cost and length. In consideration, the Spurs will pay an undisclosed amount of cash (sure to be many Euros) and provide unspecified “future considerations”. The Spurs also agreed to allow Wembanyama to play for the French National team in future international competitions such as the Olympics and the World Championships
To pull off this heist, the Spurs took advantage of their superior knowledge of international law gained through years of dealing with non-US players such as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw and Tony Parker — especially the last two. Wembanyama played his own part in the transaction by cleverly NOT declaring for the NBA draft. While everyone assumed he would be the number one pick in the upcoming draft, only the Spurs noted that Wembanyama had not actually placed his name into the NBA draft portal.
While that is a mere formality for American players, most of whom declare for the draft rightafter the NCAA season ends, a different rule applies to foreign players who are often already playing in, and under contract to, professional leagues in Europe. This is where the Hague Convention comes into play. The Hague Convention is a long-standing international compact that covers everything from the conduct of warfare to international adoptions. Importantly, the Convention is binding on all country signatories. Among those signatories are the United States — and France. The Hague Convention requires its signatories to recognize the sanctity of contracts signed in any country subject to its rules, which includes France. And this rule thus applies to the contract Wembanyama just signed with the Metropolitan 92s.
Wembanyama has had his sights set on the Spurs since he was a small boy. Tony Parker is basketball French royalty, as is Boris Diaw. Wembanyama even played on a team owned by Parker (Lyon) the season before this one. While people wondered why Parker allowed his young star to transfer to the Metropolitan 92s for this season, that move appears to have been part of a well designed long-term plan to steer him to Parker’s old friends in San Antonio. Truly the French Connection. Merci Tony!
As an added bonus for the Spurs and their fans, the Spurs did not use any of their draft picks in this transaction. As a result, they still have the chance to win the NBA lottery for the first pick in the draft. With Wembanyama “off the board”, the first pick will likely be Scoot Henderson or Alabama’s Brandon Miller, each of whom would fit very well next to the Spurs’ newest star.
In order to confirm the enforceability of the contract, the Spurs have filed a complaint for declaratory relief and a motion for an injunction in Federal District Court in San Antonio. The case has been assigned to Federal Court Judge Robinson Duncan, who was born and raised in the city. Judge Duncan is considered likely to rule in favor of the Spurs.
A rapid resolution of the lawsuit will be in everyone’s best interest, especially because Wembanyama can simply decide to stay in France another year if the NBA contests the transaction. The NBA has been promising its fans Wembanyama’s unique new talents for the past year and will not want to be seen as the impediment to Wembanyama playing in the NBA at all. This is especially true because the alternative to drawn out litigation is having him play for one of the league’s most well-respected franchises.
If all of this falls into place, Sean Elliott’s Memorial Day Miracle may be replaced in Spurs lore by the April Fools’ Day Faux Deal. Or as Gregg Popovich said after hearing about the transaction: ”When something sounds to be good to be true, it probably is.”
Editor's Note: This is probably obvious, but the preceding post was an April Fool's Day joke. The Spurs do not have Victor Wembanyama... yet.