PARIS — A clutch performance to clinch a playoff seed, hanging at a party with Kylian Mbappe and then getting emotional with his mother after learning he was heading to the San Antonio Spurs.
Victor Wembanyama had quite a Tuesday night.
First, he scored 14 of his team-high 22 points in a 92-85 victory for his Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans over cross-town rival Paris Basketball. After being in foul trouble for much of the middle of the game, Wembanyama made a series of jumpers in traffic to help his team take a fourth-quarter lead. He then iced it with a thunderous dunk with six seconds left.
He celebrated at center court after the win, which put the Mets into the second seed for the upcoming French Pro A League playoffs, by screaming and pumping his fists. Then he made a lap around his home arena signing autographs and posing for photos with celebrities, including French movie star Omar Sy and French soccer icon Mbappe.
Wembanyama finished off a regular season in which he averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game, all of which led the league. Before the game he received a trophy for being the league’s top shot blocker and is expected to claim its MVP honor this week.
A short time later, he was in a car on the way to Nike’s Paris headquarters on the Champs Elysees, dressed for a draft lottery party that started at nearly midnight. Family, teammates, coaches, friends and the celebs joined him for a spirited event that had to last into the middle of the night because the lottery didn’t begin until 2 a.m. local time.
Wembanyama, 19, smiled and shook his head in disbelief as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski opened the lottery broadcast by saying NBA teams viewed him as maybe the most highly anticipated player to enter the draft and “maybe the greatest prospect in the history of team sports.”
In a room filled with veteran agents and coaches, some of them looked at each other taking in the surreal feeling in the moment.
Murmurs went through the small crowd as each team came off the board. When the broadcast went to commercial and four teams remained — the Spurs, the Charlotte Hornets, the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers — Wembanyama put his hand over his heart as tension filled the air.
When the envelope for the second pick was opened to reveal a teal Hornets logo, meaning the Spurs had gotten the winning number 4,000 miles away, the room burst into applause. Wembanyama, with his parents on each side of him, broke into a smile before emotion came over his face as he wiped his eyes at the gravity of the moment.
Though he was clear throughout the process that he didn’t have a preferred destination, the Spurs are a popular team in France because national basketball legends Boris Diaw and Tony Parker thrived and won titles in San Antonio.
It was clear Wembanyama, his agents and his family were pleased with the outcome.
“My heart’s beating [fast],” Wembanyama said after he learned of his destination. “I’ve got everyone I know, everyone I love around me. It’s a really special moment I’m going to remember the rest of my life.”
After missing the playoffs just once in 29 years between 1990-2019, the Spurs have missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons. It was the first time they’d won the draft lottery since 1997. San Antonio drafted Hall of Fame big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan the last two times.
Though NBA teams were asked by the league office in a recent memo not to disclose their choice in the event they won the lottery, there was no mystery about his future as dawn approached in the French capital.
Wembanyama, on a draining but fulfilling day, headed off to bed knowing he would be a Spur.
“I’m trying to win a ring ASAP,” he said. “So get ready.”