Here Are Some Photos Of Victor Wembanyama Being Impossible
9:02 AM EST on January 8, 2024
A little less than two minutes into the third quarter of Sunday's Spurs-Cavaliers game, Victor Wembanyama leaked out in transition after contesting a three-point attempt by Donovan Mitchell. Jarrett Allen tip-slammed Mitchell's miss, leaving him a mile away as Wembanyama sealed the infinitely tinier Mitchell under the basket at the other end; Tre Jones, bringing the ball up for San Antonio, spotted the mismatch and floated a pass to Wembanyama from out near half-court. Wembanyama, facing midcourt, with the basket behind his right shoulder and the pass coming in to his left, jumped to catch the ball, pirouetted in mid-air, and banked it into the basket in one quick motion.
It was a lovely bit of improvisation; Wembanyama is not the first player to have done something like it, but he is, by miles, the player who by dint of his sheer proportions made it seem most outrageous. Something in the neighborhood of 24 minutes (the total duration of Wembanyama's temporary minutes limit, to safeguard an ankle he injured) of any given Spurs game is like this. OK yes, that is a three-pointer; that is a tip-drill offensive rebound; and that is a professional basketball player simply dribbling a basketball. I have seen thousands upon thousands of those, and most if not all of them at this point seem, if not quite unremarkable, then a sort of impressive that only occurs to me if I think about it. In the person of this grass-stalk, 7-foot-4, 20-year-old they pop off the TV screen as miracles of proprioception, coordination, and athleticism. The human body can do that! Look at all the moving parts that must cooperate to make it so! He didn't even die!
After the game (the Spurs lost; they're 5-30), as is quickly becoming my custom, I went to Getty's website to check out photos of Wembanyama. This is currently my favorite genre of sports photography. Eventually, provided his good health and, like, the continuity of civilization, the Victor Wembanyama experience will become more normal; people who watch NBA games on TV will get used to seeing him—to seeing, that is, a guy whose leg is as tall as plenty of ordinary-sized persons glide around a professional basketball game, draining pull-up threes and making plays off the bounce with the smooth fluidity of a skilled player a full foot shorter. I hope not too soon. For now a simple still photograph of him doing a quotidian basketball thing—or, hell, standing—is more thrilling than anything that any Washington Wizard has done in over three years.
Here are a few fun ones I found:
I like to start at the bottom of this photo, of Wembanyama standing next to Cleveland's Tristan Thompson (official height: 6-foot-9) and slide my eyes upward from their shoes. Their ankles are in the same place; their knees are at roughly the same height. Even their respective belt-levels, where their shorts meet their jerseys, share an altitude. Then something happens between there and their shoulders. Wembanyama's torso just ... continues. The top of his shoulder is, what, six inches higher than Thompson's? His chin is above Thompson's ear. He could smooch the crown of Thompson's skull with just a slight crane of his neck.
Here's a good one:
A video on the internet that never fails to crack me up is titled "Check out Buddy when Buddy get up." It is a grainy video of monitor or TV screen, on which you can see two guys in suits, seated along the sideline at an NBA game. To either side of them are a bunch of coaches and assistants and injured players in street clothes, all standing. All of them look pretty normal. Then there's a stoppage in play and the two seated guys stand up. That's pretty much the whole video, except for the delirious cackling of the guy who recorded it off his screen. I don't want to spoil it, except to say that the above photo is basically the exact opposite of "Check out Buddy when Buddy get up."
At first I couldn't figure out what was catching my eye in this photo, only that something seemed shocking about it. Then I realized that I was thinking about it wrong: There wasn't anything to figure out. What was catching my eye was ... Victor Wembanyama is gigantic. That's what's shocking about this photo. The hoop and ball give scale to the image; my brain simply has an expectation of what a ball should look like relative to a human at roughly the same distance; and Victor Wembanyama simply is a being of titanic size.
What the hell, man.