The NBA has a long lineage of rim-protecting goliaths who have patrolled the paint over the years. From Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan, basketball fans have watched in wonder as courageous opponents challenged them only to be denied at the summit. Those superstars earned their Hall of Fame status, but one man stands unparalleled as the most prolific single-game shot blocker.
Who is this remarkable backboard bodyguard? You might not recognize the name Elmore Smith, but the former Los Angeles Lakers center put up an unbelievable 17 blocks against the Portland Trail Blazers in 1973. That outstanding performance has become somewhat forgotten since it came before an era when every matchup was available on television. And while several players have come close, Smith still holds that league record.
Though breaking that all-time benchmark sounds impossible, it might feel a little more feasible if you had a colossal defensive anchor with an eight-foot wingspan and the mobility of a wing. Well, it just so happens that the San Antonio Spurs landed that precise player when they hit the jackpot in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes this summer. The teenage forward has notched a career-high five blocks just once, but time is on his side.
Before we get caught up in the fanfare, multiple obstacles could prevent Wembanyama from rewriting history. There are just 19 players who have blocked at least ten shots in a game since the turn of the millennium. That number shrinks to three if you trim the scope to the last decade, which is no surprise considering the pace-and-space blueprint that dominates the league has left teams firing away from beyond the arc at an unprecedented rate.
With that reality check out of the way, does Wembanyama have a chance to unseat Elmore the Rejector? The odds are not at all in his favor. Fierce slashers abandon their drives at the first sight of the towering Frenchman, and he can't erase an attempt that never goes up. Regardless, no one has ever possessed this much ground coverage, and he can get a fingertip on any jumper as long as he is alert and in the vicinity. Never say never.
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