In an NBA draught that is sometimes a guessing game, Victor Wembanyama was the expected No. 1 choice for months.
But when the timer above the stage he was facing descended to zero, butterflies began to surface.
“Longest five minutes of my life,” Wembanyama said.
The San Antonio Spurs are certain the wait will be worthwhile because of him.
On Thursday night, the Spurs signed the 19-year-old Frenchman who is expected to quickly become the newest phenomenon in basketball, prompting cries of “Wemby! Wemby” from a group of Spurs supporters holding placards from the first row of seats at Brooklyn’s Barclays Centre.
Wembanyama is taller and has more excitement than the majority of first-round choices. He is listed at 7 feet 4 inches, and in his last season there, he dominated his French league, topping all players in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots.
He now enters the NBA as perhaps the finest prospect since LeBron James graduated from high school in 2003. Wembanyama, who has the stature of a centre and the shooting and ball-handling skills of a guard, provides a set of abilities that appear ideal for the current NBA and too extensive for one player.
He shed a few tears as he embraced his siblings and exited the stage while wearing his Spurs hat, and he later made fun of how fast he received a white-and-black No. 1 jersey with his name already written on the back.
He responded, “Someone knew this was occurring in some way.
Almost everyone did.
For the little time he was there, Wembanyama sat in the midst of the green room and was the centre of attention throughout the whole process. When children yelled “Victor!” at him as he strolled around the arena, he grinned and even encouraged one of them toss a basketball his way, which he then autographed and threw back up into the seats.
Brandon Miller, a freshman forward out of Alabama, was selected number two overall by the Charlotte Hornets.
The Portland Trail Blazers selected Scoot Henderson of the G League Ignite with the third overall choice. Henderson’s bling-filled blazer stood out sharply in comparison to Wembanyama’s basic green attire.
Wembanyama established himself as the top pick in this draught during a two-game series between teams that included him and Henderson in Las Vegas in October by scoring 37 and 36 points in front of scouts and some potential rivals. During the previous season, his highlights, such as a follow-up dunk on his own failed 3-point attempt, were must-watch material for basketball fans.
Wembanyama is the third No. 1 choice for the Spurs and the first since Tim Duncan in 1997, which resulted in a run of five NBA titles from 2014 until their current struggles.
He broke a streak of 13 years in which a college freshman was selected first by becoming the first foreign player since Andrea Bargnani in 2006 to be selected first overall without having played any college basketball. The last No. 1 who wasn’t a one-and-done was Blake Gryphon in 2010, when he was a sophomore.
Prior to Miller passing him following his tremendous season for the Crimson Tide, Henderson was initially thought of as the potential No. 2 choice. However, the 19-year-old thinks his two seasons in the NBA’s development league have better prepared him for success in the NBA.
“I’m the draft’s best-prepared player. I say that,” Henderson said. “I learned so much from spending two years there, simply by going there. A lot of stuff off the court, but also on the court.
The fourth and fifth choices in the draught created history. Twins As the first brothers to be chosen in the top 10 of the same draught, Amen and Ausar Thompson of Overtime Elite were taken by the Houston Rockets and the Detroit Pistons, respectively.
It “means a lot to my family,” Amen Thompson said. Whoever went first, we would have been pleased. It means a lot to us to finish first and second, being the first twins to do so in the top five.
Orlando selected Arkansas’ Anthony Black in the sixth round, breaking a streak of three consecutive players who had not attended college. But when Indiana chose Bilal Coulibaly, Wembanyama’s colleague with Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, whose status rose in the playoffs as the club reached the Pro A League championships, it was immediately back to the international levels.
Jarace Walker, a forward selected by Houston at No. 8, was obtained by the Pacers in exchange for Coulibaly’s rights from Washington.
The Dallas Mavericks selected Kentucky guard Cason Wallace with the No. 10 choice, then traded his rights to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who had selected big man Dereck Lively II from Duke. The Nos. 10 and 12 picks were also exchanged.
Prior to Jordan Hawkins of national champion UConn being selected by New Orleans to finish the lottery, Gradey Dick of Kansas, whose brilliant red blazer resembled Dorothy’s shoes from “The Wizard of Oz,” went to Toronto with the No. 13 choice.
The Utah Jazz selected all three of their selections, and there weren’t many trades made in the first round. They selected Ohio State’s Brice Sensabaugh at No. 28, UCF’s Taylor Hendricks at No. 9, and Keyonte George of Baylor at No. 16.
The first round’s biggest shock came when Villanova guard Cam Whitmore, who was expected to go in the top 10, was selected at number 20 by the Rockets. Nick Smith Jr. of Arkansas, who was thought to be a lottery pick, arrived in Charlotte at position 27.
Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA was selected by the Miami Heat, who lost in the NBA Finals, at position 18.
Amari Bailey of UCLA went to Charlotte at No. 41, Emoni Bates of Eastern Michigan went to Cleveland at No. 49, and Isaiah Wong of Miami went to Indiana at No. 55 in the second round.
Due to Chicago and Philadelphia forfeiting second-round choices for breaking league rules regarding the timing of their free agency negotiations, the draught was reduced to 58 picks.