Being the hottest new thing in American sports can be daunting. It can be a volatile world where your own fans love and perhaps overhype you, while everyone else — from opposing fans to former players to media pundits — will find any reason to downplay or hate just because you aren’t their shiny new toy.
That is where Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama currently finds himself. Everyday, you can go on social media and find a new hot take from either side of the aisle. It was on full display in just two summer league games, where after a jittery opening act in which he mostly deferred, he was labeled a bust by haters. Then, in his second act, he shined when he was on the floor, with most accepting this will be closer to the version of Wemby we will see in the NBA (although, because it was a loss, haters still found a way to criticize him). Only the level-headed can accept that two summer league games do not make a star or bust, and it’s best to just wait for the regular season to roll around and allow the sample size (and competition level) to grow before passing too much judgement.
Now, it’s officially the offseason, and the takes are still as hot as the Texas summer is long... and hot. Former NBA star Tim Haraway recently said 5th year player to-be Bol Bol is better than Wemby, saying, “I think he’s better than Victor Waba Ma, or whatever his name is. Bol Bol has better physical talent and (is more) ready to play in the NBA right now than Victor is.”
Beyond the disrespect of not learning his name, this is a flaming hot take and way to early presumption, so allow to respond to the hate with equal hype. Not only has Wemby not even been given a chance to prove himself, but Bol Bol hasn’t exactly lit the NBA world on fire. He only found just regular minutes in his fourth season, averaging 9.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21 minutes per game with the Magic. If Wemby averages those numbers even in his rookie season, he’ll get the bust label without a doubt. Not only that, but Bol Bol is 7’2” with a 7’8” wingspan — still impressive — while Wemby is 7’3” with an 8’0” wingspan and seems more durable, so I’d day he wins in the “physical talent” department. It’s hard to know where Mr. Hardaway Sr. gets his numbers from (but then again, it’s hard to know where a lot of things in his head come from).
Next came another hot take from former NBA player Olden Polynice (yes, I had to look him up too) basically trying to place Wemby at the basement level of his potential, comparing him to Shawn Bradley. No disrespect to Bradley — his life took a turn for the worst in 2021 after he was hit from behind on his bike in a hit-and-run and turned into a quadriplegic — but the 7’6” giant entered the league with high expectations and didn’t live up them, while Wemby is capable of much more.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum called overhype, and I can confess to being guilty of it (in more ways than just above). Just the other day, I saw a tweet (is that what a post on X is still called?) asking which current player is most likely get the NBA’s next quadruple-double, something last accomplished by the Spurs’ own David Robinson in 1994 (although some will say the scorekeepers got it wrong and missed two Tim Duncan blocks in Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals). Here was my response:
I hadn't really thought of this, but does Wemby legit have the best chance of ending the NBA's quadruple-double drought? I takes a special player to get 10 assists or 10 blocks, let alone both in one game, and he has the gifts to do it. https://t.co/swqIjIPCKQ— Marilyn Dubinski (@alamoaggie08) July 21, 2023
This may be true, but am I already breaking my own rules by dubbing Wemby the quadruple-double drought buster way to early considering he hasn’t even posted a triple-double — or heck, even double-double — in the NBA yet? Probably so, but that’s the nature of the beast. He’s the most hyped prospect in 20 years. With hype comes haters, haters bring defenders who overhype everything all over again, and the cycle goes on and on.
The good news is Wemby has already proven himself to be mature enough to ignore all the distractions, good or bad, and that’s all that matters, because as long as the offseason drags on without any play to back up either side of the argument, all we will have is hot takes. It is summertime, after all.