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Catch The Victor Wembanyama Show

9:02 AM EDT on July 10, 2023

Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio Spurs) extends his arms above his head
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Woe unto him who makes anything out of NBA Summer League results. Summer League doesn't count, barely matters, and predicts almost nothing: Young players who turned out fine have looked crappy there, and young players who looked great there turned out to be Ben Simmons. Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio's 19-year-old presumptive franchise player, made his Summer League debut on Friday night against the Hornets and stank; he played again on Sunday night, and put a 27-point double-double on the Blazers; both results are equally worthy of dismissal.

The fun of Wembanyama, though, is that he is such an extraordinary specimen of a guy—7-foot-5 and about as wide across as my iPhone until he extends his arms, at which point he can touch both baskets at the same time—that watching him play basketball is fun and rewarding whether the games count or not. To wit: With a little less than eight minutes to play in the second quarter on Sunday night (and with the Spurs trailing Portland 21-10, who cares who cares who cares), Wembanyama received a pass to the right of the top of the key, took one dribble out toward the wing, then hit his defender with a reasonably hard crossover back to his left, drove toward the middle, and pumped up an 18-foot fade-away jumper. In the abstract, as a basketball move, one must admit, this was nothing special: The crossover did not gain Wembanyama a step on his defender, and the resulting shot was a contested long two-pointer, just about the crappiest shot in basketball.

But it was an uncanny and thrilling sight in a way that, say, a wide-open and smoothly taken catch-and-shoot corner three never can be: Wembanyama, to reiterate, is tall enough to alert Nikola Jokic to some lint on the pinnacle of his skull, spotted from above. Did you ever watch Gheorghe Muresan? The Ukrainian [CORRECTION: Romanian!] giant could barely move, or anyway moved how you'd expect someone that tall to move, which is to say poorly and slowly relative to other professional body-movers, and with much deliberate folding and unfolding of endless limbs: It was all Muresan could do to shamble from one end of the court to the other in anything close to the same time-frame as his teammates, and any basketball move a whole lot more complicated than catching the ball, extending it above his head, and dropping it into the hoop was almost totally out of the question. Muresan was two inches taller than Wembanyama, who is 19 and may possibly have more growing to do. And here the latter was—OK, yes, fine, in a Summer League game!—attempting Kobe Bryant shit.

The shot went in, which is nice but not really the point. Along the way it also arced higher than any intentional two-point shot taken in live game action that I can remember seeing. The ball disappeared beyond the upper edge of the broadcast frame a fraction of a second after leaving Wembanyama's hand, and just ... was gone? For what felt like a long time! Then suddenly there it was again, falling through the net from a hilariously vertical angle, like it had been dropped from a hot air balloon. It should have had frost on it.

Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio Spurs) shoots over an opponent
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

The Getty archive of Victor Wembanyama news photos is very funny. All of the ones taken with a narrow aspect ratio—to fit his entire body into the shot from closer than a mile away—are all but useless for blog-header purposes: No plausible crop can get them into anything even close to a 16:9 shape while still retaining any information other than what his face looks like. And any photo taken in a wide-enough aspect ratio to work as a header image, but that contains the entire image of Wembanyama doing any basketball thing—unless you consider laying flat on the ground to be a basketball activity—is equally hilarious: It might as well be a satellite photo of North America.

The Victor Wembanyama experience is going to be so much fun. Which sort of brings me back around to the idea of Summer League not counting or mattering, which I have just now convinced myself, or maybe Wembanyama has convinced me, is Processist garbage. Of course it counts! And matters! It counts and matters if you like watching it! This blog is over!

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