Future or Flop?

Alan Cai

October 21, 2022

   Occasionally, a professional athlete prospect will spark so much interest in the sporting community that even sports enthusiasts of other sports will become familiar with their name. Even more rarely, an athlete sparks a national sensation and sends teams using tremendous effort to lose their games in order to up their chances of drafting the prospect. In 2003, that athlete was now-NBA-legend Lebron James. The then 18-year-old was already the greatest high school player to have ever lived and Cleveland was not mistaken to draft him at that time, a decision nearly every general manager at any time in basketball history would have made. Today, the basketball world is gripped by a French basketball superstar and projected best player of the decade, Victor Wembanyama.

The most striking characteristic of Wembanyama is his height. Standing at 7 feet and 3 inches(or 4 inches depending on the source), he would immediately be tied for the tallest player in the NBA with the exit of Tacko Fall this year. Possessing extreme agility and skill for his height(and for that matter, he was fast even compared to smaller guards), comparisons have been drawn between him to Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. The difference Wembanyama brings to the table this year is his incredible length and prowess on both ends of the court. In basketball, as in any sport, size is not everything, but combined with tremendous skill, Wembanyama is rumored to have struck equilibrium.


Were he to have been drafted in any other basketball era, Wembanyama would perhaps be labeled just another above-average prospect. However, in the present day, in which enormous players such as Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic dominate as giant ball-handling shooters, Wembanyama takes his unique set of skills to another level.


Whereas modern players tend to sacrifice aggressive post-play in favor of outside shooting, the fast-paced and rough nature of the game is still retained. In other words, regardless of the number of perimeter shots attempted, basketball still remains a contact sport with less optimally built players being more prone to injury. Unsurprisingly, players who were too tall, regardless of frame size, often found it difficult to sustain long periods of playing time without injury. For example, Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming famously ended his career early after sustaining career-ending injuries. Fellow Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O'Neal also suffered multiple injuries to his toe, a factor that ultimately led to his retirement.


Victor Wembanyama will be injured quite frequently once playing in the National Basketball Association. According to his listed measurements, he would have a Body Mass Index rating of around 19, making him borderline underweight in a league where most other NBA players are classified as overweight due to their tremendous muscle mass. Wembanyama also heavily relies on his talent for being quick with the ball and on defense. However, players relying on their athleticism in order to dominate quickly whither out after a few seasons due to their aging and the demanding gameplay. Notable examples of players who were forced to give up their flashy playing style to avoid injury include Zion Williamson and Blake Griffin, also coincidentally both first-overall picks.


As good as he is touted to be, Victor Wembanyama is no Lebron James. He will undoubtedly have an immediate impact on the league, but his mark will eventually diminish over time. The speculation he has received is more than what the player deserves and his height, in the end, would likely become a detriment.