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Wemby Watch: Victor Wembanyama's rookie campaign redefines expectations

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Top Kia MVP candidate Nikola Jokic has high praise for leading Kia ROY candidate Victor Wembanyama.

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We’ve reached the finale of our weekly chronicle of all things Victor Wembanyama. But we certainly haven’t abandoned wall-to-wall coverage of the No. 1 pick. Although the updates come to an end for the season, stay tuned on NBA.com as news develops regarding the superstar rookie. 

Take a look at what we saw this week, along with plenty of memorable moments from 2023-24:


Rookie resume 📋

Here’s a quick recap of the Wembanyama’s accolades from his first NBA season:

One of three teenage players in NBA history (LeBron James & Kevin Durant are the others) to record 35-plus points, 10-plus rebounds 2-plus blocks in a game, since blocks were tracked in 1973-74 (Nov. 2, 2023)Youngest player to log 20-20 game (Dec. 8, 2023)First teenager to log 20-plus points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks in a game (Dec. 28, 2023)Sixth player in history to reach 100 blocks in their first 35 games (Jan. 7, 2024)Youngest and just the 22nd player ever to tally a 5×5’ state line (Feb. 23, 2024) First rookie to post 40-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in a single game since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. (March 29, 2024). Fourth player in history to record seven or more games with 20-plus points, 5-plus assists and 5-plus blocks in a single season (April 2, 2024)

Also: 

It’s not official yet but it’s safe to say that Wembanyama will be just second rookie ever to lead the league in blocks (since 1973-74), joining Manute Bol. Panini Rising Stars selection as part of 2024 NBA All-StarThree-time Kia Rookie of the Month (January, February & March)

ROY debate 🤔

That’s over now, especially after the way Wemby played in the three games leading into Friday’s win to the New Orleans Pelicans. A few days earlier against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets, the 20-year-old blocked the two-time Kia MVP’s shot on four occasions on the way to finishing the night with nine blocks.

Obviously, Jokic eventually adjusted, based on his fast-break dunk in the first quarter that drew a laugh from both big men. The two-time MVP figured out that laying up the ball wasn’t a safe proposition whenever Wembanyama lurks anywhere near.

Jokic finished with a rare three dunks, and admitted Wembanyama played a role in that.

“I was just [like], ‘At least I’m gonna be aggressive and try to dunk it. Why not?’” Jokic said. “And then it was funny. I said ‘If you’re gonna block more shots, I’m gonna… something.’ But he blocked like four after that. So, I didn’t do anything about it.”

That night, Wemby became the fourth player in league history to log seven or more games with 20-plus points, 5-plus assists and 5-plus blocks in a single season, joining the company of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Spurs Hall of Famer David Robinson.

“Victor gained a lot of respect tonight because Nikola is the best,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “For Victor to want to guard him and learn, it was a real testament to how good he wants to be. To go up against Nikola shows a lot.”

By the way, Wemby flirted with a quadruple-double in that game. He poured in 23 points to go with 15 rebounds, 8 assists and 9 blocks.

“Yeah, it’s going to happen,” the rookie said of the prospect of finally notching a quadruple-double. “But I have other priorities.”


1-man highlight reel 🤯

Check out this extended highlight package of some of our favorite Wemby plays from 2023-24 to put a bow on our season-long series.

Recap Victor Wembanyama's rookie campaign with some of his best plays from the 2023-24 regular season.


On the road ✈️ ⚜️

Security officials manning the doors by the loading dock at Smoothie King Center on Friday stopped all traffic coming in and out as the Spurs team bus pulled up to the arena. That left many of the arena’s workers peering through a rectangular window in the center of the door as the Spurs unloaded the bus and headed to the visiting team locker room.

Once Smoothie King Center workers caught a glimpse of Wembanyama walking past, a small eruption of astonishment and laughter ensued as a crowd gathered near the door.

One worker said, “He’s taller than me standing on his knees.”

Fast forward several minutes to when the media gathered for pre-game availability. As Spurs coach Gregg Popovich walked into the interview room, an arena worker stopped him at the door and asked for a credential.

That’s right, the arena employee didn’t recognize the winningest coach in NBA history. But everybody knew immediately all about the 7-foot-4 rookie French phenom.


Free tickets 🎟️

Some fans attending Sunday’s matchup with the 76ers (7 ET, League Pass) can thank Wembanyama for the tickets.

👏CELEBRATION TICKET GIVEAWAY👏

As a way to say congrats to @wemby for winning the Western Conference @Kia Rookie of the Month, we are giving away tickets to the Sun 4/7 Game! 🙌

All you have to do is: ↪️Follow↪️Congratulate Wemby in the comments!

Let's Celebrate, Spurs Fam pic.twitter.com/PogkA9xJKE

— Spurs Way (@spurs_way) April 3, 2024

As a way of congratulating Wemby for winning his third-straight NBA Rookie of the Month Award, the team’s official community page Spurs Way announced it was giving away tickets to fans following the group on X (@spurs_way) that congratulated the 20-year-old in the comments. Clutch.


Circle on calendar 📅

In addition to today’s game vs. 76ers, there are four final opportunities to catch Wembanyama in action this season:

Tues., April 9: Spurs vs. Grizzlies (8 ET, League Pass)Wed., April 10: Spurs vs. Thunder (8 ET, League Pass)Fri., April 12: Nuggets vs. Spurs (8 ET, League Pass)Sun., April 14: Pistons vs. Spurs (3:30 ET, League Pass)

We recommend Wednesday’s contest at Oklahoma City where the Spurs rookie will face off against fellow Kia ROY candidate Chet Holmgren for the fourth time in 2023-24. The history between these two young stars will be rich for years to come. 

In their games together, Wembanyama is averaging 20.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.7 blocks.


Bright future ahead 🔮

It goes without saying that Wembanyama has lived up to the hype as one of the most highly-anticipated Draft picks in recent history. The 20-year-old is on track to surpass expectations for years to come, too. Despite the Spurs’ struggles this year, Wembanyama demonstrated night after night his ability to carry the load and deliver on both ends of the floor. 

“You look at his numbers for a rookie season and compare them to all the others like LeBron and KD. It’s pretty awesome what he has done,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

“I’m just sitting back and enjoying him.”

Us, too. Popovich also pointed out that while his young team has made some vast improvements since the All-Star break, there’s still plenty to do in the rebuilding process, which of course, will be centered around Wembanyama. On one hand, they need high-level talent capable of making an immediate impact to help the Spurs win, but also new pieces to complement the French phenom’s game. 

The Spurs own at least one first-round Draft pick in 2024, and are also owed a pick from Toronto (if it falls outside of the top-six) as well as Charlotte (if it falls outside of the lottery). 

“We have a lot of possibilities ahead of us, whether it’s money in the bank or draft picks or being creative trade-wise. All those things are on the table,” said Popovich.


Paris Games 2024 🇫🇷

The French phenom plans to compete for the national team at the 2024 Olympics. 

Make sure to stay up to date on the Paris Olympics with the latest news and highlights from the men’s basketball competition on NBA.com.


Praise from across the league 👏

NBA legends, current superstars and coaches have offered effusive praise about Wembanyama all season long. 

Recently, Denver coach Michael Malone was asked what helpful hints he provides the Nuggets wings and guards when it comes to guarding the Spurs rookie. 

“Get out the way,” Malone quipped before describing what he’s seen from Wemby.

“It’s funny. We all understand he’s likely the Rookie of the Year,” he said. “What’s really interesting is when you watch from the beginning of the year to now, how much better he’s gotten. You can tell he has a flair, understands how to play and can make teammates better. It’s a hell of a challenge because you can tell he’s a generational talent who’s only getting better.”

Jokic called Wembanyana “a special player” adding that, “I think when he learns and he figures it out, he’s going to be an even bigger problem.”

Interestingly, four-time NBA champion and 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green is changing his tune regarding Wembanyama’s candidacy for DPOY.

Check out a few more of our favorite quotes about Wemby below: 

LeBron JamesGiannis Antetokounmpo Joel EmbiidLuka Doncic

Rookie reflections 💭

Here are a few gems dropped by Wembanyama, dating back to the 2023 NBA Draft to now.

After being drafted No. 1 overall by the Spurs, Wembanyama shared what excites him about moving to San Antonio: “Breakfast tacos. I heard a lot about breakfast tacos.”Following his dinner with fellow Spurs legends David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili last June, Wembanyama revealed what he learned about the NBA and the Spurs’ way: “In a couple of hours, I learned more about the NBA than I had in my whole life.” Snapping an 18-game losing streak back in December, Wembanyama expressed plenty of enthusiasm to get a win again: “This is what I’m addicted to, winning. This is what I love. It’s what I live for, so I have to show it.”Witnessing Jalen Brunson score a career-high 61 points at Madison Square Garden on March 29 left Wembanyama, who notched a career-high of his own (40 pts), in awe, telling the media: “I’ve never seen so much greatness before. The season has been going on for just some months. I’ve just witnessed so much greatness and I want to be a part of it. I always wanted to, but more and more seeing that I’m already able to compete with those guys. I’m not near, but I’m on the right path. I know it and I’m going to get there and soon.”

Welcome to the League moment 🤷‍♂️

In a season full of firsts, Wemby found himself a little lighter in the pocket when the league announced Sunday it was fining him $25,000 for throwing the game ball into the stands after the team’s 130-126 overtime victory on Mar. 29 over the New York Knicks.

That marked Wembanyama’s first fine from the league.

Typically, players throw the ball into the stands out of frustration. But in this situation, Wembanyanma’s heart was in the right place, as he attempted to provide a fan at Frost Bank Center a memento from one of the most exciting games of San Antonio’s season.

“When I threw the ball, I thought, ‘Yeah, I remember players being fined for this,’” Wembanyama said. “But they threw it always in a bad way. I threw it to make some guy’s day.”


Feet heat 🔥

When you saw Vic debut his NIke GT Hustle 2 PEs back in February in Indianapolis at the NBA All-Star game, you probably wondered how you could cop a pair. 

Well, it looks like Nike is finally set to release those kicks in May under the name Nike Hustle 2 “Alien,” according to Nice Kicks, which dropped news of the release along with a couple of images of the shoe on X.

🛸🛸🛸 https://t.co/LKEg9qdhea pic.twitter.com/swS7d4ya9h

— Nice Kicks (@nicekicks) April 2, 2024

The glow in the dark sole is a nice touch, and the alien emblem on the heel of the shoe is actually an image Wembanyama drew himself. Perhaps the most fitting part of the shoe are the messages etched into the bottom of the soles. They read: “Be Unique” on one shoe, followed by “Every Day.”

That’s definitely Wembanyama.


The Wemby effect 📈

The Spurs’ local viewership saw a 54% year-over-year increase from last season (as of Feb. 6), according to the Nielsen Station Index. While we can’t pinpoint the exact reasons behind the rise, we’re confident to give Wembanyama’s arrival in San Antonio some of the credit, at the very least.

* * *

Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

Michaela Gilmer is a producer for NBA.com.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.

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