Victor Wembanyama was crowned NBA Rookie of the Year

Victor Wembanyama with the number 1 San Antonio Spurs jersey, April 9, 2024, in Memphis (Tennessee), against the Grizzlies.

Even Tony Parker, the French player with four NBA titles, had not had this honor. Victor Wembanyama was named “rookie” of the year on Monday 6 May, the North American basketball league announced, confirming the San Antonio Spurs player’s convincing first season in the most prestigious league in the world.

To succeed Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, a panel of 99 media personalities who cover the NBA voted unanimously to crown “Wemby” the top rookie. The native of Chesnay (Yvelines) thus becomes the first Frenchman to receive the award, the third European after the Spaniard Pau Gasol (2002) and the Slovenian Luka Doncic (2019).

If the collective results had not been there – the Spurs finished in fourteenth place (out of fifteen) in the Western Conference – the Frenchman, 20 years old and chosen in first position by the Texan franchise in June 2023, managed to gain momentum throughout the season to confirm a first NBA year that lives up to the immense expectations it raises.

“I knew that, to get there, I had to be good individually and dominant on the pitch”, explained Victor Wembanyama to the TNT channel. The title of rookie of the year “It’s always been very important and I’m happy that it’s finally official”he appreciated.

Rare stats for a beginner

After some doubts at the beginning of the exercise, the French giant (2.24 m) finally put an end to the suspense and beat Oklahoma City pivot Chet Holmgren. The 22-year-old American, with similar characteristics to the Frenchman – very tall, 2.16 m, agile and agile – promises to be his great rival in the years to come, after the two players have already faced each other in international youth competitions.

Despite not being very successful with the Spurs (22 wins, 60 defeats), Victor Wembanyama lit up the championship with his talent, immediately becoming a fan favorite: the Frenchman was the third player to have generated the most video views” on social networks (1.3 billion) according to the NBA, behind the superstars LeBron James (1.9 billion) and Stephen Curry (1.7 billion).

Victor Wembanyama, at the center of the Spurs’ rebuilding project, has achieved rare statistics for a rookie in the NBA. In 71 of his franchise’s 82 games – he was rested due to some ankle problems – he averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 blocks, placing him at the top of the entire league in the latter statistical area.

In the running for the Defensive Player of the Year trophy, with Rudy Gobert

Visible and spectacular elements of his defensive work, Victor Wembanyama’s counterattacks could offer him, from Tuesday, a new trophy, he who is one of the three finalists for the defender of the year award, together with his compatriot Rudy Gobert and the Miami pivot Bam Adebayo. The outcome is much more uncertain this time, facing two experienced All-Star players.

Rudy Gobert, the fulcrum of Minnesota’s best NBA defense, more than ever in the running for the title, has already won the award three times (2018, 2019 and 2021). Adebayo (26), eliminated with the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs by Boston, was selected by the United States in a “dream team” for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Paris and the Olympic rings are the next horizon for Victor Wembanyama, currently resting while the strongest teams in the championship compete for the playoffs. There is no doubt that the giant will be called up on May 16 by French coach Vincent Collet, who is counting on his former Metropolitans 92 player to shine at the Games, in his first senior international competition.

“Can’t wait to see you at the Games!” »he also wrote, on the X platform, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal in a congratulatory message. The journey of Victor Wembanyama “It is a source of pride for France and for all basketball lovers”greeting.

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