Wembanyama 'immune' to NBA Draft hype

By AFP   June 21, 2023 | 07:13 pm PT
Wembanyama 'immune' to NBA Draft hype
French basketball player Victor Wembanyama speaks during a press event ahead of the NBA draft, in New York City on June 21, 2023. Photo by AFP
Victor Wembanyama dismissed the soaring hype swirling around him on Wednesday as he prepares to become the most sought-after No.1 pick in the NBA draft since LeBron James.

The 19-year-old French talent is a lock to be chosen by the San Antonio Spurs in Thursday's NBA Draft in New York, widely viewed as a once-in-a-generation talent capable of transforming a franchise.

The 7ft 4in (2.24m) Wembanyama arrived in the United States on Monday to be greeted by autograph hunters and San Antonio fans as excitement builds ahead of the Draft.

In packed a pre-draft press conference on Wednesday, Wembanyama told reporters he was unfazed by the attention which has accompanied his entry to the NBA.

"I don't let all this stuff get to my head because I have such great expectations for myself that I'm immune to all this stuff," Wembanyama told reporters. "I really don't care."

San Antonio erupted in celebrations last month when the Spurs won the NBA's lottery for the first pick, billed as the "Wembanyama sweepstakes."

For Wembanyama, being chosen with the No.1 selection on Thursday will be the realization of a lifelong dream.

"Ever since I knew about the draft, exactly how it worked, I wanted to be first," Wembanyama said.

"Tomorrow something's going to happen that I've been thinking of for years.

"I'm going to have trouble sleeping tonight for sure. I just feel really really lucky."

Wembanyama is also looking forward to getting down to work with San Antonio, where he will follow in footsteps of France's four-time NBA champion Tony Parker under the guidance of revered coach Gregg Popovich.

"For me, San Antonio is a synonym for winning," Wembanyama said.

"On lottery night, when the Spurs got the number one pick I was just thinking that I was being lucky that they got the pick because of their culture and their experience in creating, making good players.

"So I really can't wait."

'Want to be the best'

NBA officials say Wembanyama has the potential to be a "game-changer" for the league, noting that his arrival has already driven spikes on the league's streaming platforms and social media channels.

Wembanyama said Wednesday he is embracing the challenge of delivering both on and off the court.

"I'm trying to be the best," he said. "Being the best is not only on the court. There's all dimensions in the job of an NBA basketball player.

"I want to be the best also with the media, the press conference and all this stuff. I don't like to do things halfway."

Wembanyama meanwhile confirmed that he plans to make his first appearance in a Spurs uniform during the NBA's Summer League pre-season events.

"I'm going to be playing the Summer League," Wembanyama said.

It is not clear whether Wembanyama will play in the Summer League games in Sacramento, starting on July 3, or the Las Vegas tournament held from July 7-17.

Wembanyama also said he hoped to play for France in the World Cup taking place in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia from August 25 to September 10.

"There's time between the Summer League and the World Cup," Wembanyama said. "It's still my plan to make the World Cup. I'm waiting to agree with my franchise."

Wembanyama said he had continued training since the French basketball season ended last week with his Metropolitans 92 team suffering a 3-0 series defeat to Monaco.

"Ever since last season ended, like a week ago, I've been staying in shape," Wembanyama said.

"I've been lifting pretty much every day except for the day when I traveled. I was lifting this morning with my coach. I'm not too tired.

"I actually I was pretty much in the best shape of the season."

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