The Greek Freak against the French Freak. Something’s gotta give. Unfortunately, because the San Antonio Spurs has been on autopilot for about half a decade, lucked into Victor Wembanyama in the draft lottery, and failed to surround him with any sort of competence, he can only do so much against a championship contender like the Milwaukee Bucks.
But whatever Wemby does, it’s worth watching. The Spurs suck. Without Wemby, it’d be unbearable. Instead, he single-handedly makes them must-see TV, and looks like a freak of freaks whilst sharing a court with Giannis Antetokounmpo. No easy feat.
So set aside the fact that San Antonio lost 125-121 at home. The only reason the hosts are in this game at all to begin with is thanks to Wembanyama. The rookie phenom, on what I’m now discovering is his 20th birthday, put up a casual 27 points, nine boards, and five blocks in 26 minutes as Gregg Popovich keeps him on a limited minutes pitch count. Good on Coach Pop. He knows this team is a sinking ship. No need to put mileage on Wemby’s legs unnecessarily.
Gotta say, though: From a selfish perspective, I want as much of Victor Wembanyama as possible. He’s unbelievable. Deserves so much better than the Spurs are giving him right now. They had better have a plan in place. You can’t be getting off to 5-29 starts beyond this season. Not when you have a dude who can do sh*t like this:
Wemby's ridiculous highlights on his 20th birthday!
Oh yeah. Wemby went full NBA Street/T-Mac/whomever else has done it over the years in a slam dunk contest. What’s crazy is, Giannis went to mark Wemby on a switch at the top of the key, damn near poked the ball away from him, and Pat Connaughton — not a slouch of an athlete or defender by any means — went in for the double team.
Wemby took one dribble — one!!! — did a little Euro step shimmy without traveling, and in a split second had Connaughton grasping at air while he was readying to pass it off the backboard to himself and throw it down. Lord have mercy.
Shot-blocking extraordinaire Brook Lopez isn’t an easy man to get around. When you have the, no lies told, eight-foot wingspan of Victor Wembanyama and such graceful athleticism, there aren’t many guys you can’t get around.
This really did give me Inspector Gadget vibes, but more saliently to basketball, remember the climax of Space Jam? Michael Jordan gets fouled by the Monstars, who’ve rigged the game in their favor and thus don’t get whistled for a foul. You know, Looney Tunes rules/physics. Anyway, MJ elasticizes his arm before our very eyes and rips it through the nylon for the winning, buzzer-beating bucket.
The stakes weren’t quite as dramatic here for Wemby. Doesn’t make it any less true that Wemby’s wingspan might actually be the cartoonish length MJ’s limb was stretched to for a majorly animated feature film.
Play No. 3: The Immaculate Closeout
Not sure when I'm going to get fully used to the amount of ground that Wembanyama can cover on a closeout, but the answer is apparently "not yet." pic.twitter.com/RtLKyBrv2L
Connaughton got fooled on defense by Wembanyama earlier. With the score tied up in the early-mid fourth quarter, he figured he had a clean look at a corner 3. High-percentage shot. Seemingly not contested. You’re hoisting that under any circumstances if you’re proficient from beyond the arc.
Wemby said NO. I counted five or six baby strides for him to get to that corner and get a piece of Connaughton’s shot, including a gather step before he rose up and stretched out that big mitt. You may not think it looks impressive on first pass. Trust me. Check the replay. Bonkers.
This is new to me. When was the last time you quite literally saw a “blink and you’ll miss it” dunk in an NBA game. I had to rewind that highlight three different times to even try to glimpse Wemby getting that dunk off against Lopez. Only on slow motion can I say with 100% certainty I saw Wemby hit the rim and get the ball through the hoop. It’s almost like it teleported through the cylinder when seeing it in real time.
I’m calling it the Sneak Dunk. It’ll catch on, maybe.
…That’s not even to speak of the around-the-world, Harlem Globetrotter-style handles Wembanyama pulled out on Damian Lillard. With Milwaukee sitting at second in the East, I’m sure Dame isn’t regretting the trade from the Blazers to the Bucks. Still, his defense leaves something to be desired, although there was very little he could’ve done here except foul.
Play No. 5: Dame Dolla DENIED / Play No. 6: The Literal Next Play
Not the worst night for Lillard overall. Had 25 points, 10 dimes and no turnovers. In a key moment down the stretch, however, he had what he thought was a clean finish at the rim. Funny how Wemby just cuts into frame all of a sudden.
All Dame could do was beg for a goaltending call. I don’t blame him. When you see something like that flash before your eyes, it defies any other explanation. From what I’ve seen, the block was clean. And to only crank up the heat in Frost Bank Center thereafter…Yup. Trey. Tied at 121. HOOOH.
Play No. 7: For The Love of Greece
"OH IT'S KNOCKED AWAY BY WEMBANYAMA! KNOCKED AWAY BY WEMBANYAMA!" – Kevin Harlan on the call for Wemby rejecting Giannis at the rim pic.twitter.com/TjOOPohlmU
The title is what I wish Kevin Harlan would’ve said. Kind of a spin on, “FOR THE LOVE OF PETE” and a cap tip to “Pistol” Pete Maravich, whose length, shooting prowess and ball-handling brilliance aren’t dissimilar to Wembanyama…albeit Wemby is almost a foot taller LOL. That’s how stupid this young man’s skill set is. It makes no sense.
But yeah, when you can pack Giannis’ sh*t like this, that’s just absurd. Not to say Giannis didn’t get plenty of his on Thursday (game-high 44 points). I’m nevertheless blown away by what Wemby can do to his opponents as a rookie. Like, we all remember Giannis bullying his way to a legendary 50-point performance to close out the 2021 NBA Finals in Game 6. When he wants to crash the paint, nobody can really stop him. Except for Wemby, it would seem.
Talk about all ball. My goodness. For the love of Greece indeed.
Anyway, all those plays seemed well worth breaking down in closer detail. Hopefully that was as entertaining for you to read as it was for me to write, and to behold Victor Wembanyama in all his glory. Please stay healthy, guy. The NBA needs Wemby to carry the torch whenever LeBron decides to hang it up.He looks more than up to the task less than half a season in.