Wemby’s debut in Las Vegas was witnessed by a sold-out crowd.
Los Angeles The NBA’s future arrived here in fits and starts on Friday night, as Victor Wembanyama’s mesmerising magic was combined with the unavoidable realities of a Summer League debut: that it was only one game, that the sample size was small and the measurements were completely arbitrary, that Rome was not built in a day, and that future sports kings do not establish their thrones in the first chapters of their tales.
By any box score criteria, Wemby was undoubtedly not fantastic.
But in between the missed shots, the obvious nervousness, the 2-of-13 shooting, the occasionally subpar performance of those around him, in between the overall Summer League-ness of Wemby’s NBA debut, were the moments of brilliance and inklings of genius that gave rise to his initial acclaim.
Yes, he was passive. Definitely nervous. And frequently appeared to stop taking an active role in the game that was all about him.
He nevertheless had a 9 score, 8 rebound, 3 assist, and 5 block final tally. It was a terrible shooting game, but it was fantastic overall and suggests a wonderful career. For someone who needs time but won’t receive much of it outside of San Antonio, it was a difficult debut.
As with LeBron James and Tim Duncan before him, the anticipation and promise of the type of player Wembanyama can be will continue to materialise into something totally genuine and utterly dominant, health permitting.
That much was clear, even on a bad night.
Even though some of his teammates botched several attempted assists, you could still see it in the incredible court vision and precise passes it produced. In his range and capacity to switch shots. He already generated gravity, which created room for his comrades. A man his size shouldn’t be able to make the touch he demonstrated on the bucket, and repeatedly, those who failed fell. They continued to be strangely exciting to watch.
The anticipation for his Spurs debut against the Charlotte Hornets was rewarded that day by these small moments, which serve as markers for hopefully better things to come.
It seemed unique, distinctive, and enormous in the days leading up to the game.
It was sold out at the Thomas Mack & Centre. In order to indicate that this wasn’t a typical Summer League game, it appeared like the media, along with all the known faces from an NBA Finals, had made the journey to the desert.
A nearly-19,000 person venue had filled almost to the brim because so many other people also wanted to be in his presence two days after even Britney Spears caused a brief moment of exaggerated pop culture panic because she, too, wanted to be close to this phenomenon.
Wemby appeared to be able to perceive the occasion and feel the excitement of commencing his NBA career.
Shortly before his game, he made an appearance in the tunnel, peeking out at the game before him. His 7-foot-4 frame shocked everyone in the arena, but he was obscured by another game and surrounded by players because he was too tall for his actual entrance. His head was also blocked by a “Boyd Gaming” scoreboard.
Even Wembanyama’s presence on a routine layup line appeared unbelievable when he came to the floor a short while later for warm-ups. Thousands of eyes were drawn to him because of his height, presence, and all the potential he held.
Once it got going, his game was also choppy but magnificent.
He deflected attacks. He grabbed rebounds. After missing his first three shots, he made a wonderful kiss of the glass on his fourth attempt, which resulted in a foul and the fans exhaling in a mixture of relief and joy. Then he kept missing, and missing, and missing. He fell hard to the ground, the crowd gasping, but he immediately got back up. He will undoubtedly learn from this one extremely unimportant yet closely watched exhibition basketball game.
Over the course of 26 minutes, he had the following stat line: 9-8-3-5.
It’s important to emphasise that this game is simply the start of a journey that is both eagerly anticipated and completely overwhelming in its possibilities.
The Spurs’ 76-68 victory over the Hornets in the Summer League will not be significant years from now, regardless of what Wemby turns out to be: a great or a cautionary story, hype fulfilled or something less, Hall of Fame standout or a guy with a different destiny.
We do, however, currently have it. For the entire time he was on the ground, it was amazing to watch.