Not since LeBron James was drafted 20 years ago has there been this much excitement about an NBA prospect – as shown by the crowds eagerly awaiting Frenchman Victor Wembanyama’s arrival in the United States.
The 19-year-old, projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in this week’s NBA draft, landed at Newark International Airport outside New York City on Monday, where he was greeted by fans seeking selfies and autographs.
It was just a snapshot of the star treatment that Wembanyama, a seven-foot-four-inch center, is expected to receive ahead of Thursday’s draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Victor Wembanyama arrives for the #NBADraft Presented by State Farm
Thursday, June 22, 8pm/et on ABC/ESPN pic.twitter.com/rBXDttMoDJ
— NBA (@NBA) June 19, 2023
“I don’t know how they knew what flight I was on, but it’s fun,” Wembanyama said about the crowds greeting him at the airport. “It’s different, seeing that you can have such impact on people.”
The San Antonio Spurs hold the number one pick and are expected to draft the Frenchman, while the Charlotte Hornets are likely to select Alabama’s Brandon Miller as the second overall pick.
One Spurs fan has even had Wembanyama’s portrait shaved into the back of his head in anticipation of the player joining his team.
Current NBA stars – including James, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant – have expressed their excitement at the arrival of Wembanyama, who averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for Metropolitans 92 in France’s LNB Pro A last season.
On top of his size and eight-foot wingspan, Wembanyama has also impressed with his dribbling, passing, jump shooting and accuracy from three-point range. His physical presence and skill have led many onlookers to describe him as one of the most exciting players to ever enter the NBA.
“My mind is really focused on these finals for the last couple of weeks and it’s now going to go so quickly,” he recently told reporters about the prospect of the NBA draft.
“There’s a lot going on and I have a lot to plan with my family and my agents, the draft is in a week so there’s a lot going through my mind, so I just feel lucky to be able to live through all this.”