The NBA draft is still more than a month away, but excitement is already building for the arrival of consensus No. 1 prospect Victor Wembanyama. The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday and the chance to select 19-year-old Wembanyama on June 22 in Brooklyn, New York.
Born on January 4, 2004, in Le Chesnay, France, Wembanyama is considered by many to be the most talented prospect since LeBron James in 2003 and a lock for the No. 1 pick. The teenager has sparked “Wembymania” in his home country thanks to his unique blend of size, shooting skills, and ball-handling ability. And if that carries over to the NBA, San Antonio could be on the fast track to a turnaround after missing the playoffs the past four seasons. Read on to learn more about the young hoops phenom before his much-anticipated debut in the United States.
Wembanyama isn’t the only athlete in his family.
Wembanyama’s athletic talent isn’t all that surprising given his family tree. His father, Félix Wembanyama, was a high jumper, according to CNN, and his mother, Elodie de Fautereau, is a former basketball player and current coach. His grandfather Michel de Fautereau played for the Paris University Club hoops team in France’s topflight league.
Victor tried other sports growing up like judo and football, but probably made the right decision sticking with basketball.
He is already fluent in English.
Unlike a lot of foreign athletes who move to the United States to play professional sports, Wembanyama won’t have a language barrier. He taught himself English during his early teen years because he knew he would one day play in the NBA, and he believed it was the language of “basketball people.” According to the Associated Press, he learned by watching English-speaking television shows.
The coach who discovered him mistook him for another coach.
According to Olympics.com, Wembanyama was first scouted while playing for a U11 team in Versailles, France. Michael Allard, a coach for the French professional team Nanterre 92, attended the game and was drawn to a figure on the bench with an impressively long frame. Assuming the person was an assistant coach, Allard was surprised to learn he was actually watching Wembanyama. Allard and the club wasted no time recruiting him for their youth program, and Wembanyama eventually made his professional debut with Nanterre in the 2019 EuroCup.
He’s dominating his French league.
Wembanyama currently plays for Metropolitans 92 of the LNB Pro A, the highest-tier league in French basketball. Although the league’s overall talent level doesn’t compare to that the NBA, it’s still a good sign for Wembanyama that he’s dominated his competition.
According to Zach Kram of The Ringer, Wembanyama leads the league in points, rebounds, and blocks this season as a teenager. It’s even more impressive considering he missed three months last season with a knee injury—meaning he played in less than half of his 66 possible games across Pro A and EuroLeague play.
He’ll immediately be one of the NBA’s tallest players.
Wembanyama is 7 feet 4 inches tall, according to Metropolitans 92, and he might actually grow more. Even without another spurt, Wembanyama is of equal height to Houston Rockets big man Boban Marjanović, who is currently the tallest player in the NBA.
That said, Wembanyama is only 230 pounds—60 pounds lighter than Marjanović. So, according to The Sporting News, more accurate comparisons for the 19-year-old might be Washington Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis (7-foot-3, 240 pounds) as well as Sacramento Kings star Damontas Sabonis (7-foot-1, 240 pounds).
Wembanyama has an artistic streak.
In addition to his basketball skills, Wembanyama might be a Renaissance man in the making. “I feel like I’m an artist on and off the court,” Wembanyama said in an August 2022 interview with ESPN2. “I love thinking about a lot of things and working to get an art piece done… I love drawing. I love building Legos. I love it. I love writing.” Wembanyama added he is a fan of classical music, as well.
LeBron James thinks he’s the real deal.
If anyone might have an idea of how Wembanyama’s game could translate in the NBA, it’s four-time league MVP James, who was also considered (and has proven to be) a generational talent like the young Frenchman when he was drafted out of high school 20 years ago.
In an October 2022 interview, the 38-year old James suggested Wembanyama’s skill set is, well, not of this world. “Everybody has been a unicorn for the last two years, but he’s more like an alien,” James told ESPN. “I’ve never seen—no one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor.”
Wembanyama said it was an honor to receive such praise from James but quickly brushed the comments aside. “I didn’t do anything yet,” he said.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.