To many who paid several times the face value of their tickets to be in attendance at the sold-out Thomas & Mack Center (and on a much broader scale, those watching from home), Victor Wembanyama’s summer league debut was deflating. Much was made about his 2-13 shooting by onlookers. Nine points didn’t set any records. His supposed nerves raised eyebrows among the NBA media.
But to those on the floor, Wembanyama was as good as advertised. That includes Brandon Miller, the newly-minted Charlotte Hornets wing selected right after Wembanyama in June’s draft.
Here’s what Miller told Paul George about battling Wembanyama on George’s podcast:
Paul George: “How do you define it, like…when you were matched up with him were you like ‘okay, I’m playing against a big forward’ or…’I’m matched up against a big center,’ like, I don’t know what–
Brandon Miller: Cuz every ball screen they kept switching with big men –
Miller: I couldn’t really explain what this is. I guess big-big switch. But, of course, Victor is not a big, he’s an animal. There ain’t no position for him.”
George: He’s a unicorn.
PG: "How do you define matching up [with Wemby?]"— Josh Paredes (@Josh810) July 17, 2023
Miller: "They kept switching with big men, so I couldn't really explain what this is. Big-to-big switch? But Victor is not a big. He's like an animal. Ain't no position for him." (via Podcast P with Paul George) pic.twitter.com/qQwtGzGivv
That’s right. He’s an animal. And not just any animal: a unicorn — the much-ballyhooed moniker given to the league’s current class of elite big men. Here’s to hoping that Wemby falls a bit closer to Giannis Antetokounmpo than Kristaps Porzingis on the NBA’s unicorn spectrum even if Victor isn’t fond of that term.
On the surface, unicorn sounds like a significantly better animal comparison than what former champ Glen “Big Baby” Davis had in mind for Wembanyama:
“[Wembanyama’s] length I probably would have struggled with, but the body? Tomato chest. They soft. That boy looked like a little baby Bambi out there the other night, a little baby giraffe... I don’t think he could handle all this pain,” Davis said, per Ben Golliver.
Glen “Big Baby” Davis on playing Victor Wembanyama: “The length I probably would have struggled with, but the body? Tomato chest. They soft. That boy looked like a little baby Bambi out there the other night, a little baby giraffe... I don’t think he could handle all this pain.” pic.twitter.com/3fh6JqLlvJ— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) July 14, 2023
Okay, so add Bambi and giraffes to the list?
For my money, the best-case scenario for Wembanyama might be Bambi, and here’s the case: Bambi was only “uncoordinated Bambi” in Acts One and Two. By Act Three, he had successfully saved the wood from a fire and was crowned Prince of the Forest. So, by Big Baby’s own logic, Wembanyama is destined to rescue the San Antonio Spurs from its recent spell in basketball’s murky purgatory and ascend the throne as the franchise’s next great icon. Though, instead of being crowned, Spurs fans will happily settle for Wemby being ringed.
How did this become a referendum on animal comparisons? How did we get on the subject of a beloved 1940s Disney cartoon? Chalk it up to the summer doldrums. When there are no games to be played, we’re left with speculating whether, based on a two-game sample size, Wembanyama is more like a mythical horned quadruped, failed toy store mascot, or an equally imaginary animated stag.
The quiet void must be filled one way or another, be it by soundbites, pro-am runs, or Ben Simmons workout videos.
But for the record, my bet’s on the stag.