Unfathomable fanfare has followed Victor Wembanyama around every corner at the outset of his NBA career, and all that national media attention has thrust immense pressure onto his shoulders. Not only has the constant coverage set soaring expectations for the Parisian phenom, but it has also planted a tremendous target on his back as seasoned players around the league have extra motivation to dial in mentally and put their best foot forward when they face him.
Reporters flooded pregame press conferences with questions about how the New York Knicks would stop Wembanyama. While it prompted some effusive responses from opposing players and coaches, not everyone was willing to show him praise. Mitchell Robinson had no intention of making Victor feel at home in his first game at Madison Square Garden, and his airtight defense left the rookie unsettled and sent the arena erupting into raucous chants of "overrated."
Wembanyama was 1-of-9 from the field when the jeering started as he settled in at the charity stripe, but he showed composure beyond his years, taking a deep breath and nailing both of his free throws. The 19-year-old used that humiliating moment to find his groove, and he recorded eight points, three rebounds, and zero turnovers on 3-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter. Though his turnaround wasn't enough to spark a comeback, his unflappable poise was encouraging.
The San Antonio Spurs ultimately suffered their third consecutive demoralizing loss, but seeing their franchise centerpiece stand firm in the face of adversity should leave the fanbase with no doubt that Wembanyama is the perfect player to lead this team into the next era of perennial playoff contention. Everyone in the association has a "welcome to the NBA" experience, and you can bet on the towering teen learning a vital lesson from his shortcomings on Wednesday night.