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Victor Wembanyama’s New York Moment

The future number one pick is going on quite the media tour ahead of the draft

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

A baseball dwarfed by monster hands. A pitch that landed juuuust a bit outside at Yankee Stadium. Hopping subway turnstiles. Being swarmed like a member of the Beatles across America’s largest city. A conversation about freedom in the universe with a former NBA sharpshooter.

Just a normal first trip to New York City for a 19-year-old.

Victor Wembanyama touched down in NYC for the draft on Monday. He was immediately swarmed by fans and media at the airport who wanted to catch a glimpse of the 7-foot-5 Frenchman.

Next stop: Yankee Stadium. Wemby got to attend batting practice and take a couple cuts. A major league baseball bat is little under 3 feet long. In his hands, it looks like a souvenir for children.

If you think that’s something, take a look at a baseball in his hands.

It’s not surprising that Wembanyama’s first pitch wasn’t a strike down the middle. How many people can throw a golf ball from 60-feet away for a strike? You’d have to imagine that baseball was not a big part of Victor’s sports diet in France, either. I would love to see him kick a soccer ball (or futbol, sorry) at an MLS game to get a better gauge of his multi-sport ability.

All of the flash at Yankee Stadium was fun, but there have been some deeply serious moments on Wemby’s press tour. Most of them happening on The Old Man and the Three Podcast hosted by former NBA sharpshooter, JJ Redick.

JJ asked the future Spur what his totem in life is (a reference to the Christopher Nolan film, Inception.) What is something that keeps him grounded amongst all of the chaos?

“My totem is something bigger than basketball,” Wembanyama told Redick. “It’s accomplishing yourself inside this universe. When I need motivation, I always remember I’m free in that universe. I know what I want to do. Nothing’s going to stop me from doing it. It doesn’t stop at basketball. It’s about life.”

Near spiritual words from the 19-year-old. He also spoke about the expectations set upon him, and how he can respond on the court. One quote in particular stood out. Wemby spoke freely on his approach to the game.

“I don’t feel any pressure on my shoulders,” he said on the podcast. “I try to live free, be a free mind at all times. The way I play is the way I truly want to play. This is me, and I’m trying to show my true personality on the court and be myself.”

More than anything, Wembanyama has shown that he is both a good personality fit with the Spurs, but also wants to buy-in to the franchise. He told Redick that if he could choose any team to get the number one pick, it was San Antonio. In his pre-draft press conference he told reporters that the winning culture drew him in.

“San Antonio is synonymous with winning,” he said. “On lottery night when the Spurs got the number one pick, I was thinking I’m lucky they got the pick as a franchise that has that culture and the experience in winning, and creating good players.”

His personality shined nearly as bright as the lights in NYC. Appearances on Good Morning America, at Rucker Park and a local STEM school showed who he is outside of basketball — a 19-year-old who is destined for superstardom, but he isn’t letting it get in the way of his determination to achieve his true purpose in the universe.