In preparation for Tuesday’s show game against G League Ignite, an NBA-selected minor league team, Metros players handed their backpacks to the monitors as they passed their massive gray metal detector nearly 7 feet high. But Wimpanyama, who was said to have been measured at 7ft 4 without shoes, had to bend his shoulders heavily to avoid a head-on collision.
The building wasn’t set up for its main attraction, and neither were its drooling residents.
Wimpanyama then made his way to the court, where he went through a previous full-scale match in which he sprawled barefoot. As the trainers flexed his hips, his giant Wimpanyama sneakers, which were tall enough to look like snowshoes, waited nearby. A Metros employee estimated that Wembanyama wears Nikes as a size 55 in Europe, the equivalent of a size 20.5 in the United States. For reference, Nike athletic basketball shoes are only available in a size 18 on their website, and their official sizing scale. tops at 22.
The standards don’t really hold for Wembanyama, a basketball prodigy off the charts and among the most captivating prospects in the history of the sport. Without much effort, Wembanyama can jump and tap his head on the backboard. While warming up on Tuesday, he casually threw a windmill and his toes into an inch or two of hardwood.
Once the match started, the 18-year-old Wimpanyama kept surprising the Ignite players by appearing out of nowhere to block their shots. The Wembanyama’s 8-foot wingspan ensures that it rarely gets out of the way, even if it’s off center. While positions usually need to run across the paint to compete for the exercises, Wembanyama can often get the job done simply by extending his arms to full extension.
When he was ready and waiting for the Ignite engines, fun ensued. Wimpanyama sent Scott Henderson flying into the field with the force of one block, and he fired another volley with such force that it sailed to the Metros seat, prompting teammate Ibrahima Val Faye to break into a grinning grin.
The NBA, of course, is built on players who are tall, with long arms and jumping ability: 30 different 7-foot throwers occupied the field last season alone, and giants like Manute Paul (7-foot-7) and Yao Ming (7-foot-6) remain well known. long after their retirement. Over the past decade, a wave of skilled big men, including Washington Wizards Christapps Porzings Centereven called the “unicorn” for its rare ability to shoot and dribble despite its huge tires.
But no top player like Wimpanyama has actually done what he can, and his performance on Tuesday was more fantastic than a rhino.
Consider: This was his first game in the United States, the first time he had played by NBA rules and in a 48-minute game by NBA standards. Also keep in mind that the metros were more than 5,400 miles from home and that their journey across the Atlantic took place in the middle of the Ligue 1 season. Finally, keep in mind that over 100 members of the media have swept the Nevada desert from at least three continents, that Phoenix Suns stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker were seated on the field and representatives from all 30 of the NBA teams were in attendance.
“In terms of worldwide recognition, this has to be the biggest game I’ve played in my life,” Wimpanyama predicted on Monday.
None of that bothered Wimpanyama, who finished the game with 37 points, seven three-pointers, four rebounds and five blocks in a 122-115 loss to Ignite. How tall was Wembanyama during his first show? Danny Green is the only player in the history of the NBA Score seven three-pointers and five blocks in the same matchAnd he needed three extra work periods to do so.
Henderson, the nimble 6-foot-2 goalkeeper widely regarded as the second-best player in the 2023 class, attacked Wimpanyama early and often, finishing with 28 points, five rebounds and nine assists in an impressive display. . owned by him. Wimpanyama calmly waited for his time before taking charge in the third quarter with a series of three-pointers to cut into Ignite’s double-digit lead.
Each shot was more graceful and ridiculous than the previous one. Wimpanyama created his own off-the-shelf looks, avoiding them to a fade-three in the corner and around a four-point play from the top of the switch. After one mid-range jump, he broke off from his usual double-bar behavior to flash a glare and turn his palms up to rock Michael Jordan.
Unlike many sky-roaming teens, Wembanyama doesn’t look like he’s trying to regain control of his body after a confusing growth spurt. He moves smoothly and decisively, and seems to be more comfortable identifying defenders on the periphery than fighting over another position.
“I’ve been playing this way for years,” Wimpanyama said. “Even when I was 9, 10, 11, 15, I always hit threes and grabbed the ball. I didn’t look for my players to do that. I inspired myself with everything I wanted to do.”
There are big doses of Kevin Durant in how Wembanyama set up and cleared his shots in a clean jump, but he’s much taller and much taller than the Brooklyn Nets star. Wimpanyama edge protection remembers Rudy Joubert, except that his fellow Frenchman rarely dares to dodge in traffic or withdraw from the depths.
While the rookie Chet Holmgren of the Oklahoma City Thunder can roam from edge to arc, he can’t quite match Wimpanyama’s physical dimensions. Anthony Davis has been one of the most highly regarded figures for the past 15 years, winning the NCAA title as a freshman at Kentucky State and placing first overall in the 2012 draft. However, Wimpanyama is a much better off-shooter than Davis At the same age, he tops the 6-foot-10 Los Angeles Lakers forward.
“There’s nothing to compare to it,” said J-League coach Jason Hart. “A special talent.”
No one, neither Wimpanyama nor the Mets coach, Vincent Colette, would portray him as a perfect player. The venerable Colette, who led the French national team to silver medals at the 2020 Olympics and 2022 EuroBasket, said Wimbanyama should become physically stronger, smarter in decision-making and more efficient in distributing shots.
Colette noted, however, that he did not consider coaching during the Ligue 1 season due to the rapid switchover from EuroBasket. In the end, he decided that directing the final step of Wimpanyama’s trip to the NBA was a “very special” opportunity that would never come again. Colette’s next hope is to play Wimpanyama for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“It’s the best prospect we’ve had in our league,” Colette said. “He is amazing, not just with his size but with his incredible skills. I admire how calm he is with all the fuss around him. He has an amazing ability to listen.”
For now, but not for long, Wembanyama is still an aquarium phenomenon, known to basketball fans around the world but not a household name yet. Shown Tuesday to a half-full audience at a small 5,500-seat hockey stadium, a far cry from the sellouts that LeBron James constantly drew as a teenager in Ohio.
Fame and acclaim are coming in, and Wembanyama seems ready for a storm, in part because he played his first professional game at the age of 15 and has years of experience dealing with media obligations. No nerves were evident when Wimpanyama encountered rooms full of cameras and tape recorders this week and lamented, in fluent English, that he would soon need to leave France because “his fate is here in the United States”.
Then, with his sights set, Wimpanyama laid out his next master plan with the clarity of a young man who understood that no one else was quite like him.
“Out of all the possibilities I heard about in our class, I think [Henderson] Wimpanyama said. “He’s the most reliable from what I’ve seen. He really is a great player. If I hadn’t been born, I think he deserved the first place.”