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The Future Face Of The NBA: Victor Wembanyama

As the NBA ponders the future face of the league post-Lebron James era, names like Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Zion Williamson are often mentioned. However, if we carefully assess their potential, it becomes clear that Victor Wembanyama is the rightful heir to lead the next generation. He is the youngest of all the candidates and the most promising NBA Prospect since Lebron was drafted in 2003. He has already shown glimpses of his future dominance in his rookie year, and it's not a question of if but when he will take over the league. 

While playing in France, The 7’5 phenom unveiled a skillset that had never graced the NBA. His ability to defend at an elite level, with his scoring, rebounding, and ball handling, makes him an unstoppable force at his towering size. His jump shot is unblockable due to his height, and his 8-foot wingspan helps him block shots rapidly. It took only two months for him to acclimate to the league, and we would witness the most dominant rookie season in over 20 years. 

He finished his first season leading the league in blocks with 3.6 per game after playing 71 out of 82 games. He led the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 21.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He also showcased his passing, averaging 3.9 assists per game, placing him 4th on the rookie ladder. His playmaking abilities are often overlooked and are a testament to his versatility. It's clear that Wembanyama is not just a rising star but a force to be reckoned with. While playing the Los Angeles Lakers on February 23rd, Lebron commented on what it was like to play against him.

“I’ve said it from the beginning: he’s special, and he has an unbelievable coach that's gonna make sure he does everything the right way and play the game the right way,”  James said. “He’s already special, but he's gonna continue to get better and better and better each and every game, each and every year he steps on this floor.”

He quickly dispelled all doubt of his abilities with numerous 30+ point games. A standout performance was on April 12th, when he scored 34 points against the reigning champions, the Denver Nuggets, leading the Spurs to a narrow 121-120 victory. This game was a glimpse into the future, where Wembanyama's name will be synonymous with success. If Brian Wright,  General Manager of the Spurs, can construct the right system around him using their future draft picks, he will undoubtedly achieve more in his career than his rivals. 

While Doncic and Williamson are considered generational talents, Wembanyama's potential surpasses theirs. His ability on both ends of the court truly sets him apart. At 20 years old, he is already one of the best big men in the league, and the only reason he didn’t make the All-Star team was a lack of team success. Even though he loves the Spurs franchise, the team's current state is atrocious. They ended the season as the 14th seed in the Western Conference with a 22-60 record. To become the face of the league, he must have a supporting cast that will help elevate the franchise and get the Spurs back into playoff contention.

Every superstar player needs help, and he doesn’t have much. Keldon Johnson and Tre Jones might not be enough for long-term success. Devin Vassell has proven to be an asset they can keep for the future. This summer will be pivotal for the franchise because they have the 4th and 8th picks in the upcoming NBA draft. Whoever is chosen will play a massive role in the rebuild. Bleacher Report predicts they will draft Serbian Point Guard Nikola Topič with the 4th overall pick, which would be an excellent pairing with Wembanyama due to his scoring and playmaking.  University of Kentucky Combo Guard Rob Dillingham is projected to be the 8th pick, but we will see who Wright selects on June 26th.

Meanwhile, off the court, Wembanyama is poised to become a superstar regardless. His talent has captivated the masses, leading to high-profile media appearances such as a one-on-one interview with world-renowned journalist Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, even before he was drafted. He has also signed a lucrative deal with Nike worth $100 million, a testament to his marketability and potential as a superstar athlete. 

The exposure enticed legendary high-fashion brand Louis Vuitton to sign him, making him one of the few athletes worldwide to have a contract. His luxurious wardrobe will be exclusive to him and add to the allure of his brand.  Louis Vuitton is based in France, and the Frenchman was excited about the partnership, knowing the lineage of the famous brand.

 “To me, it's the best. It's the best partner I can think of. It’s always been hard finding clothes that fit,” Wembanyama said. “Now, though, fans can expect me to wear nice and beautiful clothes, which has been, before in my life, a struggle, but it is now possible with LV.” 

All his rivals have been in the league for at least three years longer than him and haven’t garnered this much attention. His superstardom will reach heights only achieved by all-time greats, and his popularity in the NBA will transcend to international notoriety. The entire world will desire to witness him in action, impacting the NBA’s ratings. The Spurs' only televised game during the 2022-2023 season was their special Alamodome night, where they hosted 68,323 fans in a regular-season game, the most ever in NBA history.

 Wembanyama’s presence enticed the league to give them 19 televised games for the 2023-2024 season. His popularity put the Spurs back on TV, and once they start winning consistently, it will only draw more attention. Fans will see him in TV commercials and Hollywood films. Some of the biggest superstars in NBA history, such as Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, have acted in feature films. 

A player like this only comes once in a lifetime, and we will witness how his style of play changes the NBA in the coming years. Drafting him inspired Gregg Popovich to sign a five-year extension worth $80 million at 74 years old to guide him. His charismatic personality will keep fans engaged as they follow his story through the wins and losses. It will be a process year by year as the Spurs build the team around him, but if it is done correctly, nothing will stop the takeover of Victor Wembanyama.

X account: @AntwaneWillisjr

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