Victor Wembanyama has caused a one-man media circus since landing with the San Antonio Spurs, and all eyes have been on the talented teenager as the collective basketball community has flocked to witness the first steps of his NBA career. Though foul trouble and on-court chemistry plagued his regular season debut, the number one overall pick put forth a remarkable performance in his encore against the new-look Houston Rockets on Friday night.
A tumultuous first half left fans yearning for something more from the French phenom, and he rose to the occasion down the stretch of another nail-biting matchup, asserting his dominance on both sides of the court when San Antonio needed him most. Wembanyama stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals, but the maturity in the postgame presser may have been the most impressive thing to come from this in-state showdown.
The 7-foot-3 forward entered the league as a household name after draft experts heralded him as the best prospect since LeBron James. And when players earn superstar status, it is all too easy for them to pressure decision-makers, coaches, and teammates to bend to their will. Wembanyama could have made a mountain out of a molehill when Gregg Popovich lambasted him on the sidelines for a mistake he made in crunch time, but he took the constructive criticism in stride.
San Antonio has a track record of attracting even-keeled cornerstones who embrace strict coaching and lead by example. Despite his extraterrestrial presence, Victor Wembanyama seems to be up next in a long lineage of down-to-earth personalities with the generational talent to guide the Spurs to the promised land. Tim Duncan and David Robinson were a perfect fit alongside Popovich, and the rookie sensation is already forming a sterling partnership with his playcaller.